Trying to Make The Team

Former Mississippi State tight end Dezmond Sherrod is trying to catch on with the Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League.

Dezmond Sherrod Profile Page:

You've had an eventful spring and summer. Tell me what has happened?
"Since I left Mississippi State, I've gotten interest from a couple of (NFL) teams. At (MSU's) Pro Day I ran some good times thanks to Coach (Eric Korem). The guys he trained all did pretty good.

"I wasn't sure if I would get drafted. It would be nice if I did, but I wasn't really expecting it. Once the draft had come and gone, there were a couple of teams that had offered me the opportunity to be a free agent. The Pittsburgh Steelers were one of them. And out of all the choices that I had, they were the best fit, especially considering their situation with tight ends. I am the only rookie tight end for them this year."

After you signed with them you went to their mini-camp. What was it like?
"When I first got to mini-camp, I really didn't know what to expect. But it was really different from what I thought. We had five practices in four days, really five practices in three of the days. The first day was registering and getting physicals, things like that.

"And they put the majority of the playbook in those five practices. It was really tough. You stayed late at night watching film or trying to study, then woke up and had to run those plays and memorize them. It's totally different than college because there is a lot more detail that goes into each play, each call. It was very demanding mentally because I didn't have enough time to study so that I was able to know everything in detail."

Did the coaches tell you their thoughts about you at the conclusion of the mini-camp?
"No, not really. It was mainly used for them to get a feel for us and us get a feel for them and get accustomed to learning the system and the plays. And how things are done in their organization."

After the mini-camp, did you know that you would be invited back to their OTA (Organized Team Activities)?
"I pretty much knew that I would be coming back. We didn't just have a rookie mini-camp like most teams do. We only had the rookies that signed as free agents or were drafted. And all the veterans were there as well. Other teams have rookie mini-camps where they have the signees and a lot of (players) tryouts. They have to cut people to have the maximum number of people for the OTAs which is 80 or 85, somewhere around that number."

When you were through with the mini-camp did the coaches tell you what they expected of you once you left?
"Mainly just study the notes that I had. They gave us a playbook but we weren't allowed to take it home.

"But when the OTA started, we started from scratch. We started from the beginning and did it all over again. We got the playbook when we came back. We got to go into a lot more plays in detail than we did at the mini-camp."

How long did the OTA last?
"It lasted four weeks for the veterans, but the rookies stayed for an extra week just working out and learning how to get into shape."

What was the OTA like?
"OTA is kind of like spring ball for the NFL. We just practiced but no one is in pads, so there is no full contact. And we have set plays to run in each practice, so we mainly studied our plays for each practice.

"You really had to learn on the go. There are so many details that there is no time to sit down and have it explained to you. You have to pick it up and learn on the go. And try to watch as much film on your own as you can.

"The coaches watch film of you and critique you. All of us rookies made mistakes, but you have to learn from them. You had to learn from them and not make the same mistake twice.

"As rookies, we had rookie meetings after practice that are required by the NFL, such as off the field problems, how to handle finances, things of that nature.

"They provided the rookies with apartments and had a shuttle come and pick us up at a certain time of the day, usually at 6:30 each morning. We come in and ate breakfast. We usually finished practice around 12:30. Then, we would have our rookie meetings after that. We tried to eat lunch before the meetings. We would usually finish around 2 o'clock each day. We could watch film after that if we drove, but most people had shuttles pick them up at a certain time of day to take you back to your apartment. Once we got back to the apartment we studied our playbook. You didn't have to study because you were on your own once you were let go, but if you wanted to know what to do for the next practice you had to study your plays.

"So, it was very time demanding during the time that we were there. It's kind of like a regular job."

How stressful was the OTA?
"It was very stressful especially for a rookie because you are learning everything, not only the plays, but how to be a professional. In the NFL no one babies you. You have to be at meetings on time, you get taped if you want to. In college it's a requirement to get taped, but it's not in the NFL. We didn't have practice periods working on fumbling or tackling drills like in college because we are already supposed to know those kind of things. If you fumble that can cost you your job or a spot on the depth chart.

"What the coaches are there for is to teach you the details of the plays.

"While it's a lot more relaxed in some aspects, in other ways it's a lot more demanding."

What are you doing right now to prepare for the Steelers' training camp?
"I still have my apartment in Starkville, so I'll be up here working out to make sure I get in top condition. I'll also study my notes so that I know as much about the plays as possible."

What do you know about their upcoming training camp?
"The only thing I know is that it's very, very demanding and time consuming. We will have a lot more two-a-days than we had in college, so you will have to be shape. And the more reps you get on film, the better. So, whatever you do on film you need to make the best of it. You need to make plays, don't drop passes, don't miss assignments."

Going into training camp, you know there will be a lot of stress because you are trying to get a job, but others are trying for the same job. How will you handle that type stress?
"I know it's a business. And in order to have the best team possible everyone is going to have to compete. And that's my only goal - to compete.

"The Pittsburgh Steelers is one of the greatest football franchises ever, so I'm already going to be competing against the top players. My main goal is to compete, stay healthy and do the best I can. That is the only thing I can control and the only thing I can do."

But even if you handle it like that, it's still going to be very stressful.
"It is kind of nerve-wracking but only because I don't know what to fully expect since this is my first training camp in the NFL. But with everything that is new you just have to learn from your mistakes and go with the flow."

Since he was a coach in the NFL for 17 years have you asked Coach Croom for advice?
"I've talked to Coach one time since I signed with them. He congratulated me and told me to keep doing what I'm supposed to do. And make sure I get on the JUGs machine and catch balls. And he said special teams is a key as well. Whatever I can do on special teams, that would be a big help."

What are your options if you don't make the Steelers?
"If I don't make it with the Steelers, there's always the chance, if I do pretty well in preseason games, that other teams might pick me up as well. If all in all it doesn't work out, I do have my Masters degree in Business Administration, so it shouldn't be a big problem for me to go out and get a job somewhere. But I want to give my best effort toward this. And if it doesn't work out, then I'll have no regrets."

Gene Swindoll is the publisher of the website, the source for Mississippi State sports on the sports network. You can contact him by email at

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