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Marcus Sherels: Post Bulletin Athlete of the Year

January 4, 2019

Marcus Sherels isn’t sure why so many gush about him.

But there is no question that he has endeared himself to the Minnesota Vikings, both its players and coaches.

Nine years of being as steady and humble as they come as a record-setting Vikings punt returner has certainly gone a long ways for the Rochester John Marshall and University of Minnesota graduate. So has the production and dazzle he’s infused into virtually all of his NFL seasons.

Sherels — who is the 2018 Post Bulletin Sports Person of the Year — is coming off a season in which he did all of the above one more time. Sherels averaged a lofty 12 yards per return with a long of 70 yards. And he didn’t fumble once, a major feat considering NFL returners are fielding towering punts that dance in the wind and knowing that 250-pound men are bearing down, trying to knock them into next week.

All of that was enough for the soft-spoken Sherels to be named to this year’s Pro Bowl team (as an alternate), a first for the 31-year-old.

“I think what my teammates like about me is maybe that I just come to work and work hard every day,” Sherels said. “And that I always give it my best shot.”

Longtime Vikings special teams coach Mike Priefer puts it this way when summing up his appreciation for Sherels, one of his favorite all-time players: “You guys know how I feel about Marcus,” Priefer told the Pioneer Press in July. “He brings experience. He brings productivity. He brings a great attitude. Everything he does, he does almost perfect in terms of what we ask him to do.”

Nobody figured that Sherels would be asked to do anything long term with the Vikings when he first tried out for the team as an undrafted free agent out of the University of Minnesota. But he made the team’s practice squad, and was later assigned to its 53-man roster.

Nine years later, he’s still playing and for the last number of seasons has been considered among the NFL’s best punt returners.

Older brother Mike Sherels, also a former John Marshall and Gophers star, has his own take on what has made Marcus so great.

And nobody knows Marcus better than Mike, who Marcus calls his “best friend.” Mike says it’s little brother’s ability to stay calm in the heat of things that separates him from just about everybody else. It also helps that the 5-foot-11, 180-pounder has run as fast as a 4.37-second 40 yard dash, and remains one of the league’s quickest players.

But it is that calm that has always leaped out at Mike.

‘NEVER TOO HIGH OR LOW’

“Marcus is so even-keeled,” Mike said. “That is his biggest thing. Regardless of the situation, he is never too high or too low. His pulse never gets racing too quickly. You can’t afford to have your pulse racing a million miles-per hour when you’re trying to catch a (punt). You have to go out there and do your job. And I always know with Marcus, that the Vikings will have the ball at the end of his (return).”

Mike also knows something else when it comes to Marcus. It’s that he is loyal to the core. That extends especially to Mike, his wife Emily and their four kids, who live just 10 minutes from Marcus’ Apple Valley home.

Marcus lived with Mike and Emily for much of his tenure with the Vikings, until finding his own place in Apple Valley about four years ago.

“Marcus does a lot with his nieces and nephews,” Mike said. “He loves to help and he loves to be around children, and also to volunteer.”

That volunteering has always extended to Marcus’ home town of Rochester. Besides staying loyal to his family, Marcus has always stayed true to Rochester. He continues to work out in the offseason with guys he went to high school with, and is a frequent volunteer to Rochester community projects.

“I like coming back to Rochester and helping in any way I can,” Marcus said. “I love that community — people there are amazing.”

Marcus Sherels has been amazing one more time, dazzling once again in 2018. As for when the end will come for his lusty career, Marcus doesn’t hazard a guess on that one.

He says he still yearns to play. His plan is to continue taking care of his body with his usual 5 a.m. offseason workouts in order that NFL retirement is still years away.

And his hope is that he ends where he started, as a Minnesota Viking.

“As long as I continue to have fun with it and stay healthy, I want to keep playing,” Marcus said. “And my dream is to stay a Minnesota Viking. It would obviously be great to play with one team your entire career.”

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