Gopher Linebackers Coach Mike Sherels did a one-year internship at the U-M athletic department’s African American Student-Athletes mentoring program in his senior year in 2007. It would lead one to believe that it was at that time he developed an appreciation for mentoring.
“I think that part of being a coach is being a mentor,” said Sherels in a recent MSR interview. (He is featured in Sports Odds and Ends in this week).
Given the fact that he is 20-something in age, Sherels is not that much removed from the current generation of players, he pointed out. “I consider each and every one of the kids to be my younger brother. I try to have a relationship [with all the players].
“There are 100-plus kids [on the football team] and I know all their names,” said Sherels proudly. “I call them all brother.”
And because he once worked in the local corporate sector, he can offer advice when needed and requested. Sherels said he likes to share his “connections or put [a player] in touch with somebody with connections” whenever possible. “Because of my experiences, I have so many connections and I know so many people associated with Minnesota that it is easy for me.”
But he doesn’t bring up his Gopher career to his current bunch. “I never reference what I did [as a player],” continued Sherels. “The game has changed so much. It changed so much that I rarely find myself reflecting [when coaching] when I was playing. They know that I played here — so as long as they know that, it’s easier for me to just worry about them.”
In other words, Sherels’ decorated Minnesota career, which includes being named the team’s most outstanding defensive player, leading the Gophers in tackles in his junior year and recorded 219 tackles in his four years (2003-07) “is history — in the past,” he said. “Rehashing that takes away from their accomplishments.”
Sherels also said he’s getting the handle of recruiting, an ever-present staple of college coaching. He wasn’t allowed to recruit as a grad assistant. “Sometimes it means 2-3 weeks straight [on the road] — five days at a time, come back for a day [then off again]. You’re away from your family,” he said. “That was the most difficult to adjust to. My loving wife was at home and we have a [young daughter]. The first year [he went on the road] was tough.”
“When you start off, it’s a difficult thing to balance family [and] coaching,” said former coach Jerry Kill, who hired Sherels. “That was the biggest thing he had to learn, and I told him that.”
“This year I am much more organized…it’s been much smoother,” said Sherels.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.