THE HIGH FLYER

Sher­rod Baltimore’s bound­less en­thu­si­asm, will­ing­ness to learn and, yes, even his smile have made him an in­te­gral part of the Red­blacks de­fence ... Quiet on trade dead­line

Ottawa Sun - - SPORT - TIM BAINES

SASKATOON — Early in train­ing camp, Sher­rod Baltimore was like a sponge, soak­ing up ev­ery­thing he could and hop­ing for an op­por­tu­nity to get into the Ottawa Red­blacks lineup.

His dili­gence, hard work and at­ten­tion to de­tail paid off. The 25-year-old de­fen­sive back has be­come one of the Red­blacks’ best de­fend­ers — with 38 tack­les in 11 games. He’ll once again be put to a big test on Fri­day in Regina when the Red­blacks face the Saskatchewan Roughrid­ers, who have a very good re­ceiv­ing corps which in­cludes Naa­man Roo­sevelt and Duron Carter.

“The bet­ter the com­pe­ti­tion is, you know you have to bring your tal­ent level up,” said Baltimore fol­low­ing Wed­nes­day’s prac­tice. “It brings the best of me out. When I know I’m play­ing against a player like Roo­sevelt or Duron, I know I have to come ready.”

Baltimore’s pas­sion for foot­ball shows each day he’s on the field.

“(Sher­rod) loves what he does,” said Red­blacks de­fen­sive backs coach Ike Charl­ton. “Guys like Jer­rell (Gavins), (An­toine) Pruneau, Corey Tin­dal and him, they love to play the game. They’re like a dif­fer­ent an­i­mal once they put that hel­met on and it’s game day. They fly around like crazy. If some­thing doesn’t go right, they get mad about it. They be­came stu­dents of the game and it shows.

“When we first saw him, he stood out right away in ev­ery­thing he did when it comes De­fen­sive back Sher­rod Baltimore, break­ing up a pass in­tended for Li­ons’ Shaq John­son and (right) all smiles at a Red­blacks prac­tice. to cov­er­age. Our only ques­tion was: ‘Can he tackle?’ When we saw the pre-sea­son game and saw him fly around, it was: ‘Yeah, we have to find a way to keep him here.’ He just got bet­ter ev­ery day. He’s like a kid who’s got his arms wrapped around the par­ent’s leg. That’s the way he was with me. Ev­ery day, it was: ‘Coach, coach, coach, talk to me. What do I need to know?’ That was ev­ery day. I wel­comed that. He wanted to learn and his play has shown that.”

Other than his ter­rific at­ti­tude and his de­sire to get bet­ter, an­other thing that stands out about Baltimore is his smile. He’s a beast on the field, but off it, he’s one of the good guys in a locker room full of them.

The thing with Baltimore is he hasn’t changed much since his first cou­ple of days of mini camp. The smile’s still there, the en­ergy’s still there.

“I’m stay­ing hum­ble and em­brac­ing it,” he said. “God is good and I’m real thank­ful. I just want to stay fo­cused and keep learn­ing, keep work­ing like I wasn’t (start­ing).”

His be­lief in God is an im­por­tant part of his daily rou­tine. He grew up in poverty, with his mom Sharisse on wel­fare. The fam­ily moved from home to home more than a dozen times in the Washington, D.C., area. At age 12, Baltimore lost two of his teeth when he was pis­tol whipped and robbed. Com­ing from what he calls “the strug­gle,” Baltimore ap­pre­ci­ates the op­por­tu­nity to play pro­fes­sional foot­ball and he’s sunk his teeth into it like a bull­dog.

On Baltimore’s chest, stom­ach and arms are tat­toos, in­clud­ing verses from the Bi­ble. There are also mes­sages such as ‘The Grind Don’t Stop.’ After play­ing four sea­sons for the Uni­ver­sity of Maine, the Red­blacks have proven to be a good fit. Right now, it’s one day at a time — work and work some more. Fight for your job ev­ery day.

“I’m get­ting com­fort­able, man,” said Baltimore. “Things are slow­ing down a bit for me. But as soon as I think: ‘Oh yeah, I’ve got it.’ Then I see some new stuff. I have to keep work­ing, don’t get com­pla­cent.

“The foot­ball field is a home for me. And Ottawa makes it a home. This is one of the best head coaches I’ve seen, I’ve never seen any­thing like this — the as­sis­tant coaches, too — Coach Ike and the D co­or­di­na­tor (Mark Nel­son). They just make ev­ery­thing easy for me. It’s just love here for me.”

THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

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