Signing day, sigh of relief for Sherry

By BOB PADECKY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

PETALUMA
This morning Casa Grande’s Nick Sherry will wake up to silence. It’ll weird him out. He’ll check his cell phone to see if his battery died.

Nich Sherry threw for 2,623 yards and 25 touchdowns for the Gauchos in 2010. Photo by Crista Jeremiason / The Press Democrat

He’ll start talking out of habit, a mumble probably, unconsciously repeating over and over as he has done so many times in January: “No, coach, I am committed to UNLV … Yes, I know your school has a great (pick one) computer-economics-political science-animal husbandry-food service department … But I’m going to Vegas … I am sure … I haven’t changed my mind … Really … Honest… Thanks for calling, coach.”
Two to three times a day, Sherry estimates, he would get a call like that from San Jose State, Idaho, Wisconsin, other colleges. Every day.

“I thought they would take Sunday off,” he said. “They didn’t.”
Sherry would be polite because that’s how Steve and Jennifer raised their only son. Sure, there might have been green goo coming from his ears but Nick Sherry wouldn’t raise his voice, when it would be so easy. He estimates he would receive about 30 voice mails daily. After a time he didn’t answer the phone, turning off the ringer.
And these were from the schools that all finished second.

Monday and Tuesday, the last two days before the national letter-of-intent day, UNLV offensive coordinator Rob Phenicie would call Sherry 10 times a day. Each time Phenicie wanted to know if Sherry was still committed to Vegas. Sherry was the only quarterback UNLV recruited.

“But 10 times a day?” I asked. “What did you talk about after he asked you if you’re still committed? Movies you have seen lately? What’s your favorite color?”
“We talked about everything,” said Sherry, who threw for 2,623 yards and 25 touchdowns last fall for the Gauchos.

Wednesday morning, about a half-hour before Sherry would sign his three Vegas letters-of-intent at 7, Casa head coach Trent Herzog got a phone call from a UNLV official, reminding him to fax a copy. Welcome to the pressure cooker of DivisionI NCAA football. Sherry signed the letters in the Casa gym, had some photos taken with him, his family and some UNLV gear. Right around 7:20 a.m., Sherry received a call from UNLV head coach Bobby Hauck.
“Hey, coach,” Sherry said, “we’re going to fax it right now. I’m fired up too, coach. At least you’re not nervous. That’s good. (Sherry listens). Yes, thank you, coach. I know, too, it’s gonna be great. Thank you. Thanks, coach. Thank you.”

Sherry put down his phone and repeated what Hauck told him: “When you get old like me you are going to look back and be proud of what you accomplished at UNLV. When I get off the phone I’m going to tell the media here that we just got a quarterback that is going to lead us to a championship.”

Sherry didn’t blush when he said that. He wants the challenge. He knows UNLV — just 2-11 in 2010 — is rebuilding. He knows there’s pressure on the coaching staff, Hauck being in only his second year. And he knows the pressure will be on him because he’s supposed to be the quarterback to take them to the mountaintop.

“I think I was meant to do this (lead),” said Sherry, captain of Casa’s basketball team and co-captain of the football team. “I think I was meant to lead.”
A leader knows how to handle pressure. In this case it’s leading a university, for that’s the place of prominence football occupies in this country. It may not rule UNLV, but on Saturdays football gathers more students in one place than any other campus-related activity and it not only funds the other NCAA sports but can create a certain coldness. To that Sherry already has grown a few extra hairs under his chinny-chin-chin.

Colorado offered a scholarship to Sherry in late June of last year. Sherry verbally accepted. On Nov. 9, Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn fired head coach Dan Hawkins. Steve Sherry called Bohn. A new coach would be hired and he may withdraw Sherry’s scholarship for any one of a variety of reasons, chief of which his style of play conflicts with the new offensive philosophy.
So dad called Bohn to see if his son still had a scholarship. Most frequently, but not always, a school will honor a scholarship after a coaching change.

Said Steve Sherry, “These were Bohn’s exact words: ‘We love Nick. Nick is a Buff (Buffalo, team nickname). Nick is a kid we really want, definitely the type of kid we like.’”
Steve Sherry felt reassured. Cool. Both Arizona and Washington were ready to offer Nick a scholarship. No, thanks, the Sherrys said. Nick is going to Colorado. He’s going to honor his commitment. Of course, Bohn had yet to hire a new coach.

On Dec. 6 Jon Embree, the tight ends coach for the Washington Redskins, was named to succeed Hawkins. Five days later Embree called Nick Sherry. His scholarship was withdrawn.
“The conversation lasted 48 seconds because I looked at my cell phone,” Sherry said. “He never gave a reason. All I said was ‘OK’ twice. That was it.”

Steve Sherry, a telecommunications technician, was not happy. He had been told his son’s scholarship was not in jeopardy. Sherry called Bohn three times, seeking an explanation.
“Never returned my calls,” Steve Sherry said. “We were hurt but it was time to move on.”
Only problem was, where? Believing Sherry was going to Colorado, both Arizona and Washington, feeling their own bit of pressure, offered other quarterbacks a scholarship. They had none left to give. Oops. What to do? Go to the Internet!

That’s what Stacey Hauck did. The coach’s wife was on her computer, read where Colorado rescinded, and told her husband you gotta look at this kid.
Hauck gathered information and game film. Four days after Embree unceremoniously cut loose Sherry, UNLV offered the Casa quarterback a full ride. No promises were made but a future was extended: Sherry will be given every opportunity to earn the starting job.
Within days Sherry will be sent a UNLV workout schedule, film and a playbook. On Aug. 8 he’ll report to UNLV’s training camp.

“A weight is off my shoulders,” Sherry said. “Now I don’t have to worry about getting phone calls every day.”
Sherry has done all the heavy lifting, for now. He’s already experienced a taste of college life. He knows the intensity will be dialed up. He knows Trent Herzog’s job wasn’t hanging in the balance if he did poorly; he knows Bobby Hauck’s is. Life is changing and changing rapidly, a fact not lost on his dad.

As Steve Sherry bent over to co-sign the three documents, he said almost in a whisper, as reality was hitting him as well, “Goodbye, Nick. It’s been a journey.”

For more North Bay sports, go to Bob Padecky’s blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist at 521-5223 or bob.padecky@pressdemocrat.com.