EDMONTON - J.C. Sherritt was seven years old the last time an Edmonton Eskimo was named the CFL’s Most Outstanding Rookie.
Wide receiver Shalon Baker earned the honour back in 1995, when there were five more teams worth of fresh faces tossing their hat into the ring during the U.S. expansion era.
Now, 16 seasons later and all grown up, Sherritt is in the running to follow in those footsteps.
The linebacker currently leads all rookies with 72 tackles after starting all 15 games in his first professional season of football, and first year playing north of the border.
“That would be a great honour, but at the same time we’ve got playoffs and we’ve got three huge games ahead of us,” said Sherritt, one of 86 active players on a list released by the league Wednesday who are eligible. “I learned back in college that if you look past anything, you’re going to get hit.
“You look at any awards or things like that, that’s when your play’s going to slip.”
The five-foot-10, 215-pound product of Eastern Washington is the Eskimos top tackler this season and sits sixth overall on the CFL’s leaderboard.
“It’s a huge honour, but statistics like that are a reflection of your coaches and the players around you,” said Sherritt. “And especially our defensive line. Every linebacker who’s ever played knows you’re not getting tackles unless you’ve got guys in front of you who are taking blockers away from you.”
Considering Sherritt wasn’t even playing football back in 1995, Baker’s accomplishment might as well have been a lifetime ago.
“I think I was just starting first grade,” said the now-23-year-old, who didn’t start playing football until Grade 3. “It was two years away.”
But Sherritt has always seemed to be ahead of his time, football-wise.
“Since he walked into this organization, he has been nothing but a pro,” said head coach Kavis Reed. “He’s played with broken fingers, he’s played with bad knees, he’s played with hurt shoulders. He has not missed a football game because of injury or because of his lack of tolerance to pain.
“He has been the consummate pro. He doesn’t yell and scream and dance around with all the hoopla, he just goes out and does his job.”
It’s a work ethic that makes his entire team proud to have him as their nominee.
“He contributes tremendously,” said veteran linebacker T.J. Hill. “We’re definitely thankful to have someone like J.C. At the beginning of the season, he was making a couple of rookie mistakes, but by about Week 5 or Week 6, I told him he’s not a rookie anymore.
“I said, ‘You lead the league in tackles now, that’s not a rookie. Now you have veteran status, so we’re going to treat you like a veteran.’ ”
Sherritt responded by stepping up his consistency.
“He took that as accountability,” Hill said. “Now, he’s not doing things a rookie would do, he’s taking the actions of a veteran and that’s why he’s had the success that he has.”
IN AND OUT: RG Greg Wojt (ankle) worked out along the sidelines in sweats and will not play. Look for OL Patrick Kabongo to make his third-straight start.
WR Marcus Henry did not particpate again and will likely miss his third game in a row with an undisclosed injury. FS Delroy Clarke’s bags are packed for Friday’s game in Toronto after showing no signs of injury following a helmet-to-helmet hit last week.