[As part of my upcoming 2009 Spring Game extravaganza, I recently sat one-on-one with Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan.
The junior, who donned a protective boot on his fractured leg, hit on a variety of topics including the leg injury, how that story broke, his progress this spring, dealing with the heavy criticism last season, being an athlete in the Facebook/Twitter era, his relationship with Coach Carr and finally, about ambitions to pursue the coaching profession.
I met Sheridan, who’s grown a pretty respectable beard, upstairs at Schembechler Hall. I deliberately left my jacket there so they have to let me back in.– Greg]
MVictors: So how exactly did you break your leg?
Sheridan: I got hit in practice. It’s hard to tell on film what exactly happened. I think a guy got blocked and his leg whipped around and hit me in the side of my leg. I also got hit from the front, so when it first happened I didn’t really think anything of it because I was on the ground already. When I tried to stand up I kind of buckled and realized something was wrong. But I walked off the practice field and I was supposed to see the doc about my shoulder anyway, and I told the trainer that my leg was kind of bothering me. They did a couple tests and one of them said, ‘You might have a broken leg’. I thought he was kidding. He wasn’t [laughs].
MVictors: Is there rehab you can do for that type of injury, or do you just have to stay off it?
Sheridan: I have been staying off it but you have to let the bone heal itself. They told me this morning, regardless of how it feels the bone’s not going to be completely calcified for six weeks. I am doing some rehab to work the muscles around the bone. When you stay off it for a couple weeks, your calf and ankle get weak so I’m trying to keep that up.
MVictors: So what is your role on the team given the injury? Are you standing next to Coach Rodriguez on every snap and talking it up with the other quarterbacks? I assume you are in all the meetings.
Sheridan: Sure, I got to all the meetings, that’s no different. The first part of practice we do individual drills and there’s not a whole bunch of coaching going on there, it’s just drills with the wide-outs and running backs, etc. I usually ride the bike or do some upper boy lifting during that time. The second half of practice is more 7-on-7 or full team situations, so I go out there and try to take mental reps.
MVictors: I read that you’ve become friends with Tate Forcier.
Sheridan: Yeah, it’s not good for our team to have people that don’t like each other. He’s not a bad person and he comes from a good family and he’s got a good brother, so I definitely get along with Tate.
MVictors: I’ve also heard that you’ve been working closely with Forcier, really helping him get used to Rodriguez’s system, maybe more than the typical level of mentorship you might expect. Is it fair to say that?
Sheridan: It’s probably fair to say that, but I think a misconception of that is by doing that, it shows that I don’t want to play and I’m just conceding the job to him. That is definitely not the case. Tate being a better football player is going to make our team better whether he’s starting or the back-up or whatever his role is. I’ve been in his shoes, like getting yelled at by the coaches and not being sure why. My help to him is going to help our team.
MVictors: Good news tends to flow out out of any spring session, but this year some of the scuttlebutt out of practice is that you, in particular, looked markedly improved, that you had a confident control of the offense, sharper passes, and so on. Does that reflect your perception of your performance before you went down with the injury?
Sheridan: I felt better. Obviously last year for tough for everybody and I didn’t play as well as I would have liked, and I’m not hesitant to admit that. But at the same time I’m so confident in my ability to play quarterback here and I don’t think some of my poor performances were indicative of my ability as a quarterback. I take full responsibility for not playing well but I haven’t lost confidence.
Being in this system for a year and being able to kind of take a deep breath after the season and look back at what you could have done better, you definitely feel more comfortable coming into spring. And being a year into the weight training program, as opposed to having to adapt as we did last year, now we’re just trying to get stronger and faster. I definitely felt better.
MVictors: Missing these final couple weeks, how big of a set-back is this for you?
Sheridan: It is a setback, but it is what it is. I can’t change that. Obviously I’d would have liked to have these last ten or so practices. I’m still getting better by watching and taking mental reps and it’s not the same and I know that, but I’m trying to make the best of it.
MVictors: Does being out these last couple week hurt your chances in the fall?
Sheridan: I’d be foolish to say it wouldn’t hurt me a little bit. I won’t be as fresh on the coaches minds going into the summer but I don’t think the competition is closed because I missed a few practices. I know the competition will be open.
The perception coming out of last spring was that I didn’t have a good spring, and that Steve [Threet] was better than I was and that he was going to be the starter. I had a good [pre-season] camp and I started the opener. We don’t play in May. We play in September so I’ll have a full summer. I’ll be healthy in a month and I’ll be ready to go.
MVictors: Is there any long term risk to the leg injury?
Sheridan: No, I broke it pretty clean so I should be ready to go. Spring classes start May 5th and I think we start working out that day so I should be good to go for our first day of summer work-outs.
MVictors: Switching gears a bit. Everyone’s seen the photos on the internet of Matt Leinart and Michael Phelps at parties. What do the coaches tell you about Facebook, Twitter and the perils of getting caught in a bad situation?
Sheridan: It’s not a constant reminder about what you should do, but since I’ve been here coach Carr and coach Rodriguez have had people come in and talk to us about it. I think the university had a Facebook seminar for athletes a year or two ago, we were supposed to go there when we were freshman just to warn you it’s out there. It’s different and you are aware of it. If you go to a party, and people are doing things as an athlete you don’t do, or you don’t want to be associated with, you’ve got to be careful. My mom freaks out about it. [laughs]
MVictors: Does that change your college experience?
Sheridan: A little bit. I think it does. But you know that’s just part of the responsibility of being a student athlete here and particularly, of being a quarterback at Michigan. You are held to a higher standard. A lot of people recognize who you are so it does change things a little bit.
On Facebook, you get people and you have no idea who they are and they want to be your friend. You’ve got to be careful with who you accept as friends, and with your profile. I have a Facebook and my friends are always getting on me, ‘Your Facebook is so boring, there’s nothing on there.’ [laughs] I’ve got people that I don’t want to look at my profile and I have to keep it super restricted.
MVictors: Speaking of people watching you, I believe it was the Michigan Daily that broke the story of your fracture because someone saw you walking around campus with a brace on your leg.
Sheridan: It was kind of creepy actually. It happened on the last play of practice and there wasn’t any media around at that time. After I went to the trainer [as discussed above] I left on a boot and crutches, but classes were over for the day. The next day I had a couple classes and by the end of the day there were stories circulating on the internet that I had seriously broke leg or blown out my knee–all sorts of things. I think I read one saying ‘Nick Sheridan was spotted here at this time’ and it was right outside South Quad, so I’m like, ‘Who’s hiding in the bushes at South Quad?’ [laughs]. It’s kind of weird, and that just shows the new age of media and how people are able to transfer information so quickly.
MVictors: Do you have a problem with the news of the injury being made in that manner?
Sheridan: I was able to call my mom and dad that night and tell them. It’d be a shame if I got hurt and it leaked to my parents or a family member and they thought I was seriously hurt and I wasn’t. But that’s just kind of how it is. It’d probably be different during the regular season when Coach Rod addresses the media every day. Brandon Graham was getting text messages from his buddies saying, ‘I heard you knocked Sheridan out’ [laughs]. He showed me and we were laughing.
MVictors: You’ve been around this program a while and you know that Michigan quarterbacks are criticized a lot. You caught more than your share last year and some of it got personal. How do you handle it? Do you block it out, do you feed off it?
Sheridan: I think you approach it a number of different ways. Some of it’s like, ‘This guy doesn’t know what he’s talking about’ and you just block those things out. Some of it you do feed off it a little bit, like people saying you can’t play here or you are not good. That motivates you to prove them wrong, but that doesn’t change your focus.
I just try to get better every day. And I’m focused on my teammates; gaining their trust and proving to them that I can lead this team and I can play and help us win. If the media says I’m too short or too slow or can’t play, that’s fine, they can think what they want.
The only thing that bothers me with that is my family reads that stuff. And it’s unfortunate that lots of people see what you do as a player, whether good or bad, and often it’s taken for what you are as a person. Having constant negative things written about you, especially during last year when it was such a tough year for everybody. It’s hard for my family. I know my mom doesn’t enjoy reading that stuff, and I’m sure my brother doesn’t. Or my sister getting heckled at school.
MVictors: Did that happen [heckling at school]?
Sheridan: There’s some things [that happened] but they are just kids. I was probably one of those kids when I was I was little. I understand that’s just kind of how it is. But it’s tough for my family members, I wish they didn’t have to read or hear about it but it’s everywhere.
MVictors: Every single Michigan quarterback that I can recall has, at one point, been the target of some serious criticism. Even Tom Brady.
Sheridan: Nobody liked Tommy when he was here, and he turned out alright I guess. [laughs] John Navarre probably took more of a beating than anybody. Even Chad [Henne], who was maybe the best quarterback that’s played here, maybe that ever will play here, and they were talking going into his senior year that maybe Ryan [Mallett] was going to play over him. You just hear unrealistic things.
MVictors: I interviewed long time equipment manager Jon Falk downstairs recently, and he told me that the win at Minnesota last year was one of the most special that he’s experienced in that rivalry. What did that game mean to you?
Sheridan: It meant a lot. We hadn’t won in so long and it had been so tough. The week before we had just lost our seventh game and we were out of bowl contention. I don’t know if anyone expected us to win and they were pretty good. It felt good to win and I was really happy for the seniors who had to endure so much, and for the coaching staff. It was pretty special.
MVictors: Was there any satisfaction for you personally in that game?
Sheridan: There was some sense of satisfaction. Not to take any blame away from me, but I had been thrown into some tough situations that would have been difficult for any quarterback. I didn’t want to make excuses, you get your opportunities and you make the most of them. I was unable to do that in a couple relief appearances, if you will. I felt like I was practicing much better than I was playing on Saturday and it felt good to show people I could play. I really felt good for the seniors. It was good to be able to hold onto the jug for the next couple years.
MVictors: Do you still talk to Coach Carr?
Sheridan: Yes. I did talk to him a little bit during the season. I think very highly of Coach Carr and look up to him as a person. I do keep in contact with him although I haven’t talked with him recently.
MVictors: Did Carr give you any particular advice last year?
Sheridan: He’s given me advice whether directly or indirectly, he’s always influencing his players and I’m still a Coach Carr player. I’m a Coach Rodriguez player as well, but I still have a lot thanks to give to Coach Carr for what he taught me, whether he was teaching me or teaching another player and I was observing him. But he gave me a couple points of advice that were between he and I, but I’m very appreciative of it and I think very highly of him.
MVictors: Is Coach Carr available to players?
Sheridan: Yes, he has an office nearby and if you want to talk to him you can get a hold of him. If you need to talk he’s always going to be there for you. I think that’s one thing that’s very special about him; he’s always in your corner and always there to help you if you need it and I’m very appreciative of that.
MVictors: One of the things that I’ve heard is that, down the road, you’d like to be a coach. Is that true, has that always been a goal?
Sheridan: Yes, but some people think that I came here as someone who didn’t want to compete and that I just came here to learn and to be a coach, etc., etc. I don’t know how that got blown up. That’s not the case at all.
I came here because it was the best school I got into and the it was the best opportunity to be a part of something special. I could come here and play Michigan football, that’s why I’m here.
Probably since eighth grade my dad’s been a coach and I’ve been around football my whole life so I can’t imagine not being around it. Since then I’ve wanted to one day be a professional, college or maybe even high school coach.
MVictors: If you had to pick one thing from what you’ve learned from Coach Carr to apply to your skills as a future coach, what would that be?
Sheridan: Probably his overall demeanor and how he interacts with his team, versus the media and outside people and how he definitely separates those two and protects his players to the public. Also the way he has handled adversity and criticism and all those things that come with being the head coach at Michigan. I definitely respect that.
MVictors: Same question for Coach Rodriguez, understanding that you’ve had less time to spend with him.
Sheridan: His passion for football and how he pushes his players and tries to get the most out of his team. He’s relentless in trying to do that, and if, down the line I’m able to coach, that’s something I would try to take from him.
[Ed 4/9. For the last two questions, Sheridan made it clear that his comments weren’t intended to point out a deficiency in one coach or the other, rather to highlight a key strength for each man in Sheridan’s perception. Also– caught a few typos thanks to transcribing audio at midnight.]