Mike Sherels played for the Gophers from 2003-07 and was a two-year captain, the only Minnesota walk-on ever so named. He graduated with his business and marketing education degree in 2007 and earned his master’s degree in May 2014.
Sherels, a Rochester, Minnesota native, rejoined the team in 2011 as a special assistant to the head coach. He was then promoted to defensive graduate assistant in 2013 and was named assistant recruiting operations coordinator in 2014.
When he was named linebackers coach in 2014, Sherels became the first Black former Gopher football player to be later hired onto his alma mater’s coaching staff.
“I think the adjustment has finally come full circle,” noted Sherels in a recent MSR interview at Bierman Building. “I know I wanted to coach my second year here” as a player, he added. “I’m a humble Minnesota kid. I’m right here where it all started.”
“He played at the University of Minnesota and paid his dues,” said now-former coach Jerry Kill, who hired Sherels in early 2011. “We just thought he’d be the best fit” coaching the linebackers, he pointed out.
Several years ago, the young man took a leap of faith and left a corporate-sector job to accept an unpaid graduate assistant job at Minnesota to pursue his ultimate goal of coaching. “That was the profession I wanted,” recalled Sherels, who says his wife Emily, who he met when they both were student-athletes at the school, encouraged him both in word and deed.
“She’s been great,” he said proudly. “She took a big leap of faith with me when I essentially said I need to quit my job — I’m not happy with what I’m doing.”
As a result, Emily assumed the family’s main breadwinner’s role while her husband coached “and really bet on myself [that his decision was the right one, which] shows her level of trust in me that she agreed with that.
“Every day I’m reminded of the incredible trust that she leads the family, and thankfully this has worked out,” added Sherels on the mother of their two small children. Daughter Valerie was born in Texas when the Gophers were there for a bowl game, and son Quinton was just born recently.
Since he has become an on-field assistant coach, Sherels believes he has helped his charges reach their full potential.
“Sometimes you screw up on hires, but this one was an A-plus hire,” stated Kill. “The kids are playing very well — he’s doing an excellent job. He’s a good football coach.”
Asked how he thought the players would briefly assess him, the coach said, “I would hope that they would say that I really enjoy the teaching and make sure they understand why they are doing it. I’m not one that if I tell you to do something and you ask me why, I’d say ‘Because I said so.” He hated as a player being told this. “I wanted to know why.”
Sherels has no regrets on his leap into coaching. “I have a plan, and I know who I am as a coach. I am very confident in my abilities as an assistant coach… I’m more than comfortable where I am right now.
“This is all I can see myself doing in the foreseeable future. I got life pretty good right now,” said Sherels.
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Charles Hallman is a contributing reporter and award-winning sports columnist at the Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder.