NOTE: The Patchin, Osso and the Wingman radio show on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" radio show will air live from Fairways Golf Course this Friday (April 29) from noon-3 p.m. Pacific time during the EWU Coaches Golf Tournament. Programming on 700-AM ESPN "The Ticket" may also be heard at: http://www.espnnorthwest.com.
Buck Buchanan Award winner signs a free agent contract with the Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, joining a pair of his former Eagle teammates
Eastern Washington University all-time tackles leader J.C. Sherritt will head to a family reunion in Edmonton, Alberta, in May.
The 2010 Buck Buchanan Award winner recently signed a free agent contract with the Edmonton Eskimos of the Canadian Football League, and the linebacker will re-join a pair of former Eastern teammates on the roster. Quarterback Matt Nichols enters his first full season on the team, while defensive end Greg Peach begins his third year. Peach won the 2008 Buchanan Award and Nichols was a finalist for the Walter Payton Award in 2009.
"It's huge and it will make the transition a lot easier," said Sherritt of having familiar faces around him. "I've already talked with them about what it's going to be like and what the game-play is like. It's a good situation."
Regardless of where he ended up, playing professional football was a dream come true for the two-time consensus All-American, who led the Eagles to the 2010 NCAA Division I title as a senior.
"That phrase is cliché, but I'm happy to keep using it," he said. "It's just an awesome opportunity to keep playing football. I'm lucky enough to be doing it with two friends as well."
Sherritt still has aspirations of making it to the National Football League, but was realistic about his chances of that opportunity coming out of college.
"It's funny," he said, "(Greg and Matt) were telling me they were hoping I would get a shot at the NFL, but they really hoped that I didn't so I would come up to Edmonton to play. Getting the opportunity to play with them again is pretty special."
Sherritt started negotiations a few months ago with the Eskimos, whose head coach, Kavis Reed, coached with Eastern offensive coordinator Aaron Best in the 2007 season in Toronto. Another former Eagle with ties to the Eskimos is Dario Romero, who started and ended his professional career (2001-2010) in Edmonton. He played for Eastern from 1997-2000 after graduating from Spokane's Lewis & Clark High School.
A "recruiting" trip to Edmonton was particularly beneficial for Sherritt, who will live with Nichols and Peach during the season. Edmonton is located northeast of Spokane -- 442 miles as the crow files or just over 600 miles by automobile.
"Especially being on the defensive side, Greg showed me the ropes and explained how you need to approach every day," Sherritt said of his visit, which resulted in him being offered a contract in late March, just before EWU's seniors were tested by professional scouts on April 1.
"It took some pressure off on Pro Day," he continued. "The way things turned out was the best opportunity, for sure."
Eastern cornerbacks coach Torey Hunter played for Edmonton from 1999-2001, as part of an eight-year professional career. With the longer and wider field of the CFL, Hunter provided some much needed advice to Sherritt.
"Coach Hunter told me to start running now to get into condition for it. There is a lot more ground I have to cover, and I definitely have to keep working on my pass drops because it's a passing league. But when it all comes down to it, it's still football."
"The speed, strength and experience of players is different, and obviously, the field is quite a bit bigger, so there is a lot more running," Sherritt added. "I haven't watched nearly enough video to really talk in-depth about it. But like I found from high school to college, the speed is going to be a lot more intense and players are going to be a lot better."
His size at 5-foot-10, 220 pounds certainly wasn't a limiting factor during his career at Eastern, and he hopes it will be a non-factor in the CFL when he's able to show what he can do. He closed his career with a school-record 432 tackles in his 47-game career (35 as a starter) to rank second in Big Sky history and 10th all-time in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision.
"I'm always excited to get an opportunity to prove some people wrong," stated Sherritt. "It seems like I've dealt with the size issue since I was a junior in high school."
Heads to Edmonton for Mini-Camp in May . . . .
Sherritt will head for Edmonton in May for a two-day rookie camp, followed by the arrival of veterans.
"I just expect it to be like college where it's an absolute battle to get a roster position, and you have to show up ready to play every day," he said.
But until then, Sherritt will work out at EWU and continue to re-live the sensational 2010 season with his fellow seniors. While players on EWU's 2011 squad are wrapping up spring practices this week, he says he's had an ear-to-ear smile ever since Eastern defeated Delaware 20-19 on Jan. 7, 2011, in Frisco, Texas, to capture the national title.
"All of us seniors do, that's for sure," he said. "But the rest of those guys are back on track and focused. I was at a practice and it's awesome to see the way they are approaching it. It's almost as if there is an even greater sense of urgency out on the field -- that's great to see. But for us seniors, we're still smiling all the time about it."
"You can't ever be ready right now," he added of the preparation involved for the 2011 Eastern team to defend its title. "This is kind of the most important part of the season to get everything right. But the camaraderie and the leadership is already in place. You can't win a national championship without senior leadership, but you can't win it without younger players knowing how to do the right things. The class coming up as seniors is ready, and I'm excited to see how far this team can go."
On the eve of the title game, Sherritt was awarded the Buck Buchanan Award presented by The Sports Network to the top defensive player in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. Sherritt was also selected to six different All-America teams as a first-team selection, and was the College Sporting News Defensive Player of the Year and the Big Sky Defensive MVP. In addition, the Inland Northwest Sportswriters and Broadcasters (SWABS) selected Sherritt as the Male Amateur Athlete of the Year.
Sherritt finished his senior season with 176 tackles, which ranks sixth in FCS history and bettered his own league and school records from 2009 when he finished with 170 tackles. He finished the 2010 season ranked eighth in the FCS with an average of 11.7 tackles per game after leading FCS as a junior (14.2 per game). Sherritt also finished with three sacks, 14 total tackles for loss (40 yards), three interceptions, six passes broken up, two quarterback hurries, three forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 2010.
Sherritt concluded his career with 18 tackles and a pass broken up in the national championship game. Earlier in the playoffs, in a 38-31 overtime victory over North Dakota State, Sherritt broke the school record of 399 career tackles previously held by Greg Belzer (1997-2000). He capped his record-breaking night by forcing the fumble that was recovered by EWU to end the game against NDSU at the Eastern 1-yard line. He added eight tackles versus Villanova in the FCS semifinals.
As NFL Draft Approaches, Sherritt Calls Taiwan Jones "special" . . .
Sherritt's former Eagle teammate, running back Taiwan Jones, finished fourth in the voting for the 2010 Payton Award, which is given to the top offensive player in FCS. Jones left Eastern a year early to declare himself eligible for the NFL Draft, and will find out his fate sometime on April 28, 29 or 30.
"He's special," said Sherritt, who went against him in practice the last two seasons after sharing the field in 2008 when Jones was an EWU cornerback. "If the teams see what I saw all the time, he should go high. I was lucky enough to go against (California's) Jahvid Best and (Texas Tech's) Michael Crabtree, and they just seem to move differently than everybody else. Taiwan is that kind of player. He's special, and I know as soon as he gets his shot, he's going to make the most of it."
The off-season has also marked the debut of Sherritt's modeling career. He and former Eagles Michael Roos and Tyler Jolley posed for the 2011 Hoopfest poster, which helps promote the world's largest 3-on-3 basketball tournament that takes place June 25-26 in downtown Spokane, Wash.
The trio -- who have all played previously in Hoopfest -- is photographed surrounding a flip-over scoreboard that reads "19-0." That was the score of the national title game before Eastern rallied for a 20-19 win. At Hoopfest, the first team to score 20 before time elapses wins the game, therefore, a 19-0 score is the largest lead a team could have without winning.
Sherritt, who graduated from nearby Pullman (Wash.) High School in 2006, has played in Hoopfest three times previously.
"I've played in it before -- I was the bench player but I'm proud to say I won two championships," he said. "Being from this area, Hoopfest is a huge deal. A lot of players on our football team didn't grow up here and don't realize how big it is. I was most excited to be on that poster -- that's a big deal for me."
"The best part about it was they made Michael Roos take a knee and Tyler Jolley bend over -- those guys are giants," he added with a laugh. "It was great that I got to stand up and not look like a midget."