Hometown: Charleston, WV
Record: 22-24, Bowl Record: 1-1
Rick Sherrod is another of the great home-grown Mountaineers. Sherrod came to Morgantown during Coach Nehlen’s decline in the late 1990s. He would get few opportunities to play until his junior season, in which he managed to gain the starting spot at free safety. This was a period in which the Mountaineer defense was not very good, meaning Sherrod had many opportunities to make tackles in the secondary. Sherrod’s senior season was West Virginia’s first season with Coach Rodriguez leading the team. The tough transition year left the Mountaineer defense on the field for much of the season, giving Sherrod plenty of playing time. Sherrod would set a then NCAA record for solo tackle average per game at 10.2. That kind of tackle average would not be surprising for a top-notch middle linebacker, but for a free safety it is unheard of. Sherrod registered 156 of his 285 tackles in 2001. While this statistic indicates that Sherrod is a sure-handed tackler, it also indicates that the 2001 WVU defense was awful. Sherrod had to make that many stops because that many offensive players broke through to the second level. If Sherrod had not been such a stud tackler, the 2001 season could have been a major disaster (not that it was a good season anyways). Let’s hope that Sherrod’s senior performance is never eclipsed by another WVU safety.
Memorable Game: The 2000 season was a disappointing season to say the least. By the 8th game of the season, the Mountaineers were 4-4 and riding a 3 game losing streak. To make matters worse for the WVU players, Coach Nehlen announced that he would retire at the conclusion of the 2000 season. The Mountaineers were blind-sided by the news. Once they had time to process what had transpired, the 2000 WVU football team decided that they needed to get Coach Nehlen to one last bowl game, meaning they would need to win two of the next three games. First up on their bowl drive was a road game against Rutgers. The game was incredibly close. Rutgers offense was able to move the ball well against the Mountaineers, but could not protect the ball, giving up 5 turnovers. Rick Sherrod was responsible for two of those turnovers, recovering a fumble and forcing an interception. Rutgers tied the game at the end of regulation at 17-17. The Scarlet Knights would score first in overtime with a quick touchdown pass, forcing the Mountaineers to score a touchdown of their own to send the game to a second overtime. After Phil Braxton’s diving fourth down reception to keep the game alive, Cooper Rego ran the ball into the endzone to send the Mountaineers into a second overtime. Brad Lewis connected with Sean Berton to give the Mountaineers a 31-24 lead. Rutgers could not match the Mountaineers score as Mike McMahon failed to complete the touchdown pass on fourth down. West Virginia won an entirely too close came with Rutgers by the final score of 31-24.
Competition: Prime candidates for #27 also included Jerry Holmes, Mike Scott, and Charles Rugh. Rick Sherrod’s NCAA record, although somewhat dubious, set him apart from the pack for this spot.
Teaser: The receiver that has been chosen for #26 hails from New Babylon, NY. He was a stud receiver for the Mountaineers in the mid-1990s. He was a match-up problem for many defenses with his imposing stature. Speaking of the 1990s and imposing statures, I am reminded of the career of Vin Diesel. Enjoy the trailer for Babylon A.D., an under-appreciated film from Diesel’s impressive career.