Marcus Sherels is the rare type of NFL player who was what you could call an ordinary college player who has shined as a pro.
Sherels was a two-year reserve at wide receiver for the Gophers, he caught three passes during that period. He then started at cornerback for the Gophers for a year and a half but was often injured and only returned two punts during his senior season.
He didn’t get drafted in 2010, but the Rochester John Marshall product impressed the Vikings enough as an undrafted free agent to make the practice squad that year. He eventually was promoted to the active roster and made his NFL debut in the 2010 season finale.
Every year since then, Sherels went into training camp assured of nothing, but he has remained with the Vikings the entire time, and Sunday he played the entire Eagles game at cornerback, returned every Philadelphia punt and played on every special teams unit.
Sherels, who is being paid the NFL minimum salary of $555,000 with a one-year contract, has moved up the ladder with the Vikings. He had 78 defensive snaps in 2012 and no starts in 16 games, compared to this year where he has 463 defensive snaps in 14 games with two games to go.
Sherels has 18 punt returns in 14 games this year for 236 yards and a touchdown — the second punt return TD of his career, going for a career-long 86 yards and the Vikings’ only points in their 23-7 loss to the Giants. Sherels is third in the NFL at 13.1 yards per return.
Marcus’ brother Mike was a Gophers linebacker, spending two years as Marcus’ teammate, and now serves as a defensive graduate assistant under Jerry Kill.
While Marcus Sherels is the same tough interview now as he was during his Gophers days, he has remained very humble. But he is also a confident person now when he is on the field and doesn’t have to worry about a job.
“Yes I was worried about making the cut this year, but the chance to play a lot more than last season is fun,” Sherels said.
Special teams coach Mike Priefer is one of Sherels’ biggest boosters and did his best to ensure he made the roster this year when it was time to cut players.
“He’s an amazing story, obviously from where he’s come from and all the work he has put in,” Priefer said. “It’s a tribute to him and a testament to him and his strength and how hard he works during the offseason. He put himself into a position to stay healthy all year and earn another spot as our punt returner and now he’s playing on defense. He’s been a great weapon for us the last three years and I’m glad he’s a Minnesota Viking.”
What does Priefer like about him as a football player?
“His speed, his quickness, his effort, he has great natural athletic ability,” Priefer said. “He catches punts very well, he’s a natural returner. He can play gunner and play on the kickoff team as well, and he can play defense, he’s subbed in for guys that have been hurt. I think he is invaluable.”
Priefer described Sherels as an unsung hero.
“For sure,” Priefer said. “And then people, just because he’s a little on the small side, people don’t think he can be a good football player. But everything he does, every time he puts the ball in his hands as a punt returner he has a chance to score. You can call him an unsung hero or a plain old hero.”
Wolves need Love
The last time the Timberwolves played the Trail Blazers before Wednesday’s 120-109 victory was March 2, a 109-94 loss at Portland. Of the current roster, only Ricky Rubio, Alexey Shved, Dante Cunningham and J.J. Barea played in that game, with Kevin Love and Nikola Pekovic absent because of injuries.
Fortunately Love is healthy now, otherwise this team would be in real trouble.
Love continues to put up numbers that haven’t been seen in the NBA for some time. He scored 29 points, grabbed 15 rebounds and had nine assists Wednesday, hitting four three-pointers. Those are single-game totals reached by the same NBA player only two other times since 1985-86, by Larry Bird and Vince Carter.
It was also Love’s sixth game this year with at least 25 points, 15 rebounds and five assists. That stat line is so rare that it has only happened once in the rest of the NBA this season.
On Wednesday, Love, after hitting for 17 points in the first half, didn’t score in the third quarter until 3:14 was left, scoring at a time the Wolves’ 26-point halftime lead was cut to 10. That small drought was just another example how important Love is to this team offensively.
Former Wolves player and executive Fred Hoiberg is off to a great start with Iowa State this year. The Cyclones are 8-0 and ranked No. 17.
He recently spoke with Fox Sports Southwest about how his former Wolves coaches Kevin McHale and Flip Saunders helped him become the great coach he is today.
“I was very fortunate to move right into a front-office position with the Minnesota Timberwolves where I learned a lot, especially about coaching,” Hoiberg said. “I was able to spend a lot of time 1-on-1 with Kevin McHale, who I think is as bright a basketball mind as anybody in the game. I was able to talk to people that I was close to who were great coaches. Flip Saunders was one of those guys. I use a lot of his offensive sets. Just going around and watching practices and taking notes on what I liked and what I didn’t like.”
• The Vikings will finish the season at home against the Lions, and that game will be on television like all other home games have been for more than a decade. On the other hand, it has to be somewhat surprising that the Cincinnati Bengals, who can clinch a playoff spot with a victory, are needing a time extension to sell out Sunday’s game against the Vikings. As of Thursday they needed to sell 3,500 tickets by 4 p.m. Friday to avoid a TV blackout.
• The Gophers men’s basketball team plays Nebraska-Omaha on Friday night and the Mavericks lineup will feature some familiar names to state hoops fans. Mike Rostampour played at Henry Sibley and St. Cloud State and the 6-8 forward is averaging 8.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per game. Marcus Tyus is a sophomore who played at Anoka and is averaging 9.9 points per game. Simon Krych played at St. Cloud Apollo and has been coming off the bench. Then there is Jake White, the former Chaska standout who started his college career at Wichita State and is sitting out this year because of transfer rules.
Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org