June 16, 2017
June 16, 2017
Throughout the summer, VUCommodores.com is featuring Vanderbilt football returnees who are relentless, tough and intelligent.
By Zac Ellis
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — From Cortez Hankton’s office door in Vanderbilt’s McGugin Center, the Dores’ wide receivers coach can peer out a back window and gaze at the program’s practice field. In moments, it’s not uncommon for Hankton to catch a glimpse of Trent Sherfield by himself on the turf. The senior uses extra time catching balls from a JUGS machine, among a host of individual drills, breaking a sweat when it’s not required.
Sherfield’s work ethic is so relentless that Hankton often must remind him to pump the breaks.
“Trent is the one guy I literally have to tell, okay, you’ve got to cut it back. You’re doing too much,” Hankton said. “That’s just how he’s built.”
Good luck getting Sherfield off that practice field.
“One of my goals is to be the best wide receiver in the SEC,” Sherfield said. “Everyday, I want to put in the work to become that.”
This fall, Sherfield has a chance to achieve his goal. The senior is one of the Vanderbilt receiving corps’ leaders amid a group that returns its top nine pass-catchers in 2017. Sherfield will be a valuable weapon to a Commodores’ offense that also brings back veteran quarterback Kyle Shurmur and tailback Ralph Webb, Vanderbilt’s all-time leading rusher.
As he approaches his final season in black and gold, Sherfield expects to make the most of his SEC curtain call.
“It should be a really fun year,” Sherfield said. “A lot of touchdown bombs dropping across Nashville.”
The Danville, Ill. native capped his junior season in 2016 riding a wave of momentum. He caught 11 balls for 256 yards and a touchdown in season-ending wins over Ole Miss and Tennessee. That stretch included catches of 67 and 76 yards as the Commodores scored a combined 83 points against the Rebels and Volunteers. In the end, Sherfield capped the season second on the team in receptions (34) and receiving yards (472) behind fellow senior C.J. Duncan.
But Vanderbilt’s offense often lacked a big-play receiver in certain moments. No Commodore secured more than two touchdown catches or hauled in more than Duncan’s 494 yards through the air. Sherfield sees it as his responsibility to change that.
“That’s definitely one of my goals,” Sherfield said. “To be able to do all the small things right and be disciplined, that’s why I’m out here everyday, pushing myself beyond comfort levels. I want to be that go-to guy for Kyle in crunch time. That’s what all the hours are put in for.”
Sherfield’s evolution to SEC receiver has been a quick process. He signed with Vanderbilt in 2014 as a dual defensive back/quarterback from Danville High. But then first-year head coach Derek Mason and his staff opted to shift Sherfield to receiver, a position the prospect had never played. That added an extra learning curve to Sherfield’s already daunting task of adjusting to the SEC.
These days, Sherfield is thankful for the position change. In 2015 the sophomore lead the Commodores with 51 catches, 659 yards and three touchdowns. He set a program record with 240 receiving yards on 16 catches in a 47-7 win over Austin Peay. Last season, Sherfield ended the regular season averaging 22.9 yards-per-catch in games against Missouri, Ole Miss and Tennessee.
“What you’re seeing is a body of work that’s really happened over the last two years,” Hankton said. “From when I first got here to now, that young man is light-years away from where he was. Now he wants to be that guy, and he doesn’t shy away from it.”
To reach his goals, Sherfield has become a better student of the game. He routinely soaks in film of top-tier receivers like Odell Beckham Jr., Antonio Brown and Julio Jones. But Sherfield better compares the physicality of his game to that of Jarvis Landry or Stefon Diggs. In the senior’s eyes, he embodies the same potential in Vanderbilt’s offense in 2017.
“When I’m watching tape, I tell myself there’s no difference in the routes they run and the things I do,” Sherfield said. “It’s just all about the mindset, going out there and dominating.”