Georgia transfer MJ Sherman said on Thursday that spring practice at Nebraska has been fun so far, although it has come with a major adjustment.
After spending three years practicing in the afternoon under the hot Georgia sun, he’s now practicing in the early morning in the chilly Nebraska air. Cold or no, Sherman is embracing the opportunity before him in his new home.
But why Nebraska?
“There’s no concrete answer on why Nebraska, but I understood that Nebraska is a team that’s fighting to make another impact on the college football world and I feel like I have the skills and everything about me that can help this team do that,” said the 6-foot-3, 250-pound linebacker. “Coach Rhule’s got a dream, I’ve got a dream as well. So I just always want to win games and have an impact on this team as much as the college football world.”
The Baltimore, Maryland, native said his ultimate goal is to build generational wealth and to fulfill his childhood dream of becoming the football player he knows he can be. Nebraska offered Sherman a place where he believes he can achieve that.
Sherman admitted he had “high anxiety” when he first got to campus, in part because he wasn’t able to get a great feel for the coaching staff beyond Rhule prior to committing. However, he was excited about what he found as he got to know the coordinators and position coaches more, including linebacker coach Rob Dvoracek.
“The scary part about leaving Georgia was would I ever find a coaching staff like that again?” Sherman said. “That’s what I found right here, especially from them stemming down from NFL, coming here, Coach Rhule bringing almost his entire staff here, that’s always been a blessing. Coach Rob and me, we developed a bond to the point where, yeah, man, he’s my coach and I’m proud to say that.”
Sherman chose Nebraska based on the opportunity to be an impact player the Huskers offered and the vibes he got from Rhule.
“I’m not trying to be selfish or sound like I’m all about me or anything like that, because I do really want to win games and win bowl games,” Sherman said. “I want to bring a lot of a lot of success here in this facility, which is absolutely deserved because of the work ethic with this team. But yes, the opportunities that lie here were pretty convincing for me, and plus Coach Rhule himself. That’s the main person I talked to when I was visiting here was Coach Rhule.
“He said this is going to be a system where I can thrive, and I put my faith in him. Faith at the end of the day, you can’t touch it, you can’t see it, you can’t taste it. It’s intangible, but you’ve just got to believe in it, and I’m still doing it and I’m seeing some pretty good outcomes from it.”
Sherman played in 39 games and won two national titles during this three seasons at Georgia, but most of his playing time came on special teams. In Tony White’s 3-3-5 defense, he sees a great fit for his skill set.
“It’s been fun … See ball, get ball to be honest with you,” Sherman said. “He doesn’t really want you sitting there, reading or having your mind working those gears. He actually wants you to be a good athlete and play football. Of course you’ve got to be on your technique. of course you’ve got to know your assignments, but at the end of the day once those two are pat down, just go be an athlete, play ball, have fun, and that’s what I’ve been doing.”
He described the defense as “fast” and said the 3-3-5 with speedsters filling the back eight behind the big guys up front is well-equipped to combat modern, RPO-filled offenses. He’s working at the jack linebacker pass-rushing position alongside Jimari Butler, Maverick Noonan, Korver Demma and Grant Buda.
“I’ve been working on my pass rush for the last three years and I’m now feeling like I’m actually tapping into my potential,” Sherman said. “So it plays to that strength most definitely. Soon as we stop first down, soon as we stop second down, now’s the time for me to pin my ears back and get the quarterback.”
Sherman said he’s developed a strong bond with Butler, the only one at that position with playing experience in a Husker uniform. Butler played in all 12 games in a reserve role last season, totaling nine tackles including 1.5 for loss and a pass break-up. Butler initially entered the transfer portal after the coaching changed before deciding to withdraw his name and stick it out in Lincoln.
“That’s somebody I know that we can complement each other when it comes to pass rushes and everything like that,” Sherman said. “We’re often coming to the sidelines and talking about what we saw on a previous play, or what we did on the previous play, or even today we ran a circuit package where we were both on the field. We can look at each other at the same time and it’s like, ‘Hey, did you win?’ We can nod our head or shake our head, but it’s just that competitive advantage between the both of us. It’s like, if we want to make this team great, we know that kind of rests on our shoulders. Every great team needs a pass rush and we feel like we could bring that to us.”
The post-play communication is something he learned from his NFL-bound teammates at Georgia and it’s something he’s tried to bring to the Nebraska program now that he’s one of the upperclassmen the newcomers will be looking up to.
“I’ve got million dollar friends and what I mean by that is I’ve seen a lot of guys that I call my brother to this day that grind and work hard in my position or other positions similar to mine to be who they’re at right now,” Sherman said. “So just watching them, learning from them, asking them questions, doing stuff like that, the same thing I do here. When I feel like I did a play and I run off to the side, it’s like ‘Hey, did you watch it? Did you see it? What’s something you critique me me on?’ Same thing I did over there with my big bros there, but I guess now I’m the bigger brother.”
Sherman said discipline is the most important thing he learned at Georgia under coach Kirby Smart.
“I’m not going to lie, Coach Kirby, he would get on your behind real quick if you didn’t do your assignment or do your job,” Sherman said. “Not saying they wouldn’t do it here, but that was just ingrained. It’s like a little worm in my brain right now, so I just try to make sure I’m conscientious of my work effort and everything I do and try to make sure I do every single step right, not to the point where I’m robotic, but to the point where I’m able to do my assignment correctly.”
Sherman came to Nebraska to achieve a dream, and he’s working toward that dream one practice at a time — even if those practices are in sub-30-degree temperatures.
Jacob Padilla has been writing for Hail Varsity since 2015. He covers football, volleyball men’s basketball and prep sports. He also co-hosts the Nebraska Preps Postgame and Nebraska Shootaround podcasts for the Hurrdat Media and Hail Varsity podcast networks. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.