Marcus Sherels' NFL future has never been certain. An undrafted free agent in 2010, he was cut three times before making his NFL debut in the regular-season finale.
He entered 2011 looking to solidify his stock and won the punt-return job in training camp, supplanting wide receiver Greg Camarillo, who has been a healthy inactive the last two weeks. Sherels has also earned some snaps with the Vikings defense, solidifying his place on the roster and increasing his role with the team.
"Me being out there just shows that the coaches want me out there," Sherels said. "It would be one thing if we had injuries that kind of forced me onto the field, but I've been working hard to get my chance and I'd like to think that has paid off. I've always been willing to do whatever I can to help the team and I'm glad the coaches have the confidence in me to put me out there."
Sherels credits a never-say-quit work ethic for his ascent to the Vikings' 53-man roster. He has viewed his time with the team as a learning experience and said that the improvement he has displayed to the coaching staff didn't come by accident.
"It's been a lot of hard work and never losing sight of my goal," Sherels said. "It's been a lot of watching the veteran guys and picking up and taking note of the keys they look at. The [position] meetings are good because there is a chance to ask them, ‘What do you see there?' and things like that. They're little things, but a bunch of little things add up."
Sherels said the end of the 2010 season was the start of his 2011 season. While many veteran players were thankful for the time off during the lockout, Sherels was like a caged animal. He wanted to get his NFL career resumed as soon as possible and said there wasn't any down time despite the lack of minicamps and OTAs. He said his improvement has involved many facets and didn't end once the lockout did.
"It's a little bit of everything – working out hard during the lockout, watching more film, pushing myself on those days you may not want to work as hard as you should," Sherels said. "A lot of us guys stay after practice and get in some running or extra drills. I'll hang around and catch some punts. I'm lifting a lot more this year than last year to try to keep my weight up."
Sherel's enthusiasm was tested last year as a rookie. He learned the hard way the business side of the NFL. An undrafted free agent, he thought he had made the final roster when the final cuts were made only to find his name on it. He was re-signed the next day to the practice squad, but, when the Vikings had injury questions at tight end, he was cut Sept. 28 so the Vikings could add TE John Nalbone to the practice squad. For two weeks, his career was in limbo, but Sherels said he never lost the faith. That faith was rewarded Oct. 13 when he was re-signed to the practice squad when the team released Nalbone.
He said there were a lot of emotions going through his mind during those two weeks, but never lost the belief that his release was only a temporary setback, not a significant chapter in his life closing.
"It's tough when it happens, but you can't think that way that it might be over," Sherels said. "Those guys who do think that way are the first ones out the door. You go in every day, whether you are on the 53-man [roster] or the practice squad thinking like you're going to play. You never know when your number gets called. If you aren't ready when that opportunity comes, they may not ask you the next time, so you're working hard whether you see the field or not."
That learning experience has created its own flip side. Sherels said he's working harder than ever now – this time to hold his roster spot rather than fighting to win one. The battle to get some sense of security that he is safe on the roster was a tortuous one, but he said the fight to keep his role with the team has been just as dogged a pursuit.
"I don't you can every get too confident," Sherels said. "That will send you out the door, too. There's always something new to learn and if you waste a day doing nothing, you don't learn it."
Sherels has made his first splash with the team as its punt returner – after a 53-yard return he is averaging 13.8 yards on eight returns – but said he isn't content with that. He wants to work his way onto the field more often with the defense and said that he will continue to be one of the first players into Winter Park and one of the last to leave because he owes it not only to his team, but to himself.
"Right now, the focus is on special teams," Sherels said. "I'm working hardest on that aspect because that is where I'm seeing the most playing time. I'm getting a little time on defense, but with injuries that happen in this game, if I'm the next man up, I'll be ready. I'm preparing myself to be ready if the call comes. I would be doing the team and myself wrong if I did anything less."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this story on our subscriber message board.
Sherels keeps working to solidify roster spot
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