Hartman: Marcus Sherels has stayed humble despite rise with Vikings

  • Article by: SID HARTMAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 20, 2013 - 7:05 AM

The Gophers product, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010, has become invaluable to the Vikings.

Vikings cornerback Marcus Sherels

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.

Big booster

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.

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