Sherritt honoured by nomination

GERRY MODDEJONGE, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 1:38 AM ET

EDMONTON - Back in June, Kavis Reed knew he had an outstanding rookie linebacker in his ranks.

But the Edmonton Eskimos head coach would have been hard-pressed to convince everyone J.C. Sherritt would put together the most outstanding rookie campaign in the CFL’s entire West Division.

Fast-forward five months and the five-foot-10, 215-pound product of Eastern Washington officially had that title laid upon him by the 70 voting members of the Football Reporters of Canada and CFL head coaches.

“I am going to be quite honest with you, I told a few of the coaches in training camp: ‘I am so eager to see this kid play in the preseason,’ ” Reed recalled. “I had a very strong feeling that this kid was going to be something special based on what he did at Eastern Washington.

“You’re not nominated for defensive player of the year at that level for no reason. I had some indication that he was a special talent.”

On his way to setting a school record as the first player to record 400 career tackles, Sherritt was named the top defensive player in both the Big Sky Conference and Football Championship Subdivision as a senior.

“I watched him in college last year and he had 160 tackles, and 170 the year before,” said Eskimos defensive lineman Greg Peach, who played two years with Sherritt at Eastern Washington. “So I wasn’t surprised when he came here and got 11 tackles (in his CFL debut in Week 1). He actually didn’t understand what 11 tackles meant because he was busy getting 20 a game in college.

“So 11 in the CFL, I told him, ‘That’s something else, man!’ And then he gets three the next week and is (disappointed). I’m like, ‘No, you’re fine. Don’t worry.’ ”

In 16 starts, Sherritt wracked up 72 tackles — four for a loss — three sacks, three knockdowns, three forced fumbles and 13 special-teams tackles, before missing the last two weeks of the season with an ankle injury.

“If you watch him play, he’s got a nose for the ball,” Peach said. “When some players couldn’t make a tackle, he finds a way to make it.

“It’s pretty incredible to see two lineman running up on a screen and he dives in between both of them, grabs an ankle and flips the running back. That’s pretty impressive.”

The diminutive defender was a surprise leader on a defence that surrendered a league-low 385 points, putting him up for an award that was won by just two rookie Eskimos so far: Shalon Baker in 1995 and Brian Kelly in 1979.

To become the third, Sherritt will have to outlast Hamilton speedster Chris Williams, who led the Hamilton Tiger-Cats with 1,064 receiving yards on 70 receptions and six tackles to sit ninth overall.

The winner will be announced at the 2011 Gibson’s Finest CFL Player Awards show during Grey Cup week on Nov. 24 in Vancouver.

But Sherritt has his eyes on another, Grey-er prize.

“I was surprised and humbled. That’s a huge honour,” Sherritt said. “It’s a great feeling but at the same time, that’s not possible without being surrounded by a lot of great people.”

Including Peach, who provided some CFL film to the linebacker before Sherritt even got to Edmonton.

“All the veterans on this team have done a great job of bringing me along,” Sherritt said. “It’s just a great honour right now and a great reflection of the people here.

“It’s great to get those awards, but they don’t mean anything if you don’t get the prize at the end.”

gerry.moddejonge@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/SunModdejonge


Videos

Photos