Gabe Sherrod spent the first four years of his college career at Delaware State. He entered as a wide receiver and transitioned to a defensive end as a redshirt sophomore. As a redshirt junior, he tallied 25 tackles for loss and eight sacks. The position change was not an easy one, and it is a feat he should be quite proud of accomplishing.
But that transition is not nearly the most difficult hurdle he has jumped in his life. Just making it to Delaware State in the first place was.
Sherrod comes from Perryville (Md.). A small town he likens to Odessa-Permian from the movie Friday Night Lights.
"If you don't make it out early, you're stuck," Sherrod said. "So many athletes are home doing nothing and it feels like I'm the chosen one from where I live honestly. Nobody from my high school has ever played D1 football. Until me."
Sherrod said growing up his mom always made sure he had what he needed and gave him more when she could. Her sacrifices and the transgretions of past athletes at his school provided the right mixture of motivation and determination in order to ensure he stays on the right path.
"Let me put it like this," he said. "I saw my cousin score 1,000 (points). His best friend scored 1,000. Both their fathers scored 1,000 points in basketball and I saw at least five people I looked up to in football do little to nothing after high school. They are all in Perryville right now.
"It never discouraged me because when I was in high school, I told everyone I was going to be the first to make it out and not come back."
Those words have become reality with his scholarship opportunity at Delaware State. It set an example for those behind him, one he believes has already worked as motivation to other student athletes from Perryville.
"I believe my message has been delievered," Sherrod said. "The guys behind me, four are now at D2 schools playing football."
Sometimes being the first can be difficult. It adds pressure and a weight on one's shoulders to not let others down. But that has only fueled the fire within Sherrod, who became an extremely productive player with the Hornets.
"I'm never going to get out worked by anybody," he said.
Sherrod said he goes back to his old stomping grounds from time to time to speak with current Perryville athletes about how to set themselves up for a better life. In fact, he did so as recently as Wednesday and found several players in the weighroom. He told them to believe in their dreams and to keep working in order to get looks from schools.
Even years after achieving the goal of making it out of Perryville, he remains humbled by the opportunities he has in front of himself. Despite playing for Delaware State for three years after redshirting for one, he is, once again, setting his sights on something better. The chance to play power five football at the FBS level.
One school that has been after him for some time is Syracuse, who he says have been is "truly invested" in him. He also calls them the front runners to land his services.
That makes a lot of sense for both sides. It gives Sherrod the chance to play at the highest level while the Orange have a pressing need at defensive end. He would provide immediate help in terms of experience and leadership.
"I came from nothing," Sherrod said. "And you're telling me you think I can play in the ACC? It's a dream come true. It's truly a dream come true. It's indescribable. I never thought in a million years I'd have a chance to contribute to a school like Syracuse.
"It's an amazing feeling. God opened up a door for me and poured a blessing out that I wasn't even ready for."
Sherrod visits Syracuse on February 26th.null