Archived Story

In case you’re looking for someone to root for

Published 6:38pm Monday, August 30, 2010

Sports Editor Andrew Dyrdal’s column “Second Thoughts” appears in the Albert Lea Tribune every Tuesday.

In case you’re looking for someone to root for, I was watching the Vikings-Seahawks game Saturday night and saw an old friend pick off Seattle quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and nearly run it back for a touchdown.

The friend and Vikings cornerback was Marcus Sherels, an undrafted free agent who played four years at the University of Minnesota and is a 2006 graduate of Rochester John Marshall High School.

You may remember him running wild at Hammer Field as the Rockets’ running back. He was about 5-foot 10-inches 150 pounds back then, and he’s not much bigger now.

Along with the interception Saturday, Sherels had two tackles and led the team with two pass deflections.

He was a long shot when he walked onto the Gophers football team four years ago and is a long shot with the Vikings, too. But with just one preseason game left before the regular season, his future in the NFL is looking brighter.

I met Sherels in fourth grade. We were both point guards of our respective basketball teams, who at that time were two of the best in the Big Nine. Our Albert Lea team would play John Marshall multiple times every winter, and Marcus and I, like our teams, had a friendly rivalry. We guarded each other for the entire 28 minute games, which eventually turned into 40 minutes as we became seniors in high school. In fourth grade, we had the same athletic ability and I could occasionally outrun him for a loose ball but my how things have changed.

Seeing Sherels on television made me think of other athletes with local ties who are playing at the professional and high collegiate level:

  • Ryan Otterson left Albert Lea just before starting high school. His dad got a job in Brighton Colo., and moved with him his family, and his son’s talent. Otterson went on to play left offensive tackle for the University of Wyoming Cowboys and as I reported on earlier this summer, signed as an undrafted free agent with the San Diego Chargers. Otterson has played in all three preseason games with the Chargers and is currently on the team’s active roster.
  • Ben Woodside is the most familiar, local and successful name on this list. Woodside, who is considered the best high school basketball player in Albert Lea athletics history, went on to have a record breaking career at North Dakota State University. He is currently playing in his second season with DCM Gravelines in the French National Basketball Association. Woodside was selected as an all-star last season and signed a new contract to return to the team this year.
  • R.J. Polley is a 2007 graduate of Albert Lea High School, and currently a starting offensive lineman for the University of South Dakota Coyotes. Last season, Polley played in seven games in a backup role for one of the top offenses in the nation. Polley, who wears number 78, will be lined up opposite the Minnesota Gophers defense on Sept. 11 at TCF Bank Stadium in Minneapolis. The game starts at 11 a.m. and can be seen on Big Ten Network.

Let’s make sure to root for these four athletes, who are all in very different places in their careers — Sherels and Otterson, who are both just hoping to make the team, Polley who, for the first time, is stepping into a leadership role and Woodside, who has already proven himself as a professional basketball player and is looking to take his game to the next level.