Veteran Sherit a key leader
Senior anchors defensive line
GAINESVILLE — Last season, during the third quarter of Florida’s loss to Florida State, Jordan Sherit’s knee gave out.
The Gators had two games left on their schedule — an SEC title game against top-ranked Alabama and a bowl game against Iowa — and Sherit couldn’t play in either of them. He had to go through rehabilation.
That rehab continued into the spring, where he stood on the sideline of Florida’s practice fields and could only look on, watching his teammates run drills. Sherit remembers wondering when — and if — he would play again.
“Do I want to come back?” he thought. “Do I want to put myself through this again?”
The answer came quickly.
“Without question,” Sherit said after practice on Tuesday. “And I feel like this might be my best year.”
Sherit, a redshirt senior, is the oldest and most experienced member of Florida’s defensive line, and is finally healthy after last year’s knee injury. He is the unquestioned leader of the young group, the one who teammates affectionately call “Papo” — a Cuban term that Sherit said means “bro” — a nod to his heritage.
He’s the role model for the eight underclassmen on UF’s defensive line, the wise old man, the one who UF coach Jim McElwain estimated was old enough to babysit some of the freshmen when Sherit was in high school.
He’s the one in the meeting room that commands silence from his chatting teammates when it’s time to get to work and begin film study.
He’s the one who put his arm around freshman Elijah Conliffe as they walked off the practice field on Tuesday, reassuring the rookie after defensive line coach Chris Rumph scolded Conliffe after a subpar practice.
“You can’t help but respect the guy,” Rumph said.
His teammates and coaches clearly do, Rumph said. And with his play this season, opponents are starting to as well.
Sherit leads Florida with seven quarterback hurries. He also has 19 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss and two sacks, both of which came during UF’s season opener against Michigan.
He recorded five quarterback hurries in a win against Vanderbilt on Sept. 30, his most productive game in a Florida uniform, creating chaos in the Commodores’ backfield and meeting the expectations his teammates had for him since the season began.
Sherit, a 6-foot-4, 254-pounder, is at the center of what UF is trying to accomplish as a defensive line — pressure the quarterback and fill the running lanes. He’s on pace for his best season since arriving at Florida in 2013. And he knows it.
He said he feels he made the right decision by returning to UF for one more year, but it has also slowly started to dawn on him that he won’t get another season.
And he wants to make the most of it, continuing with Texas A&M on Saturday.
“My days in The Swamp are numbered,” Sherit said. “That’s why I have to cherish every bit of time I get.”