Sheriden Lawley is more than happy to trust his gut these days.
Last spring, when the outstanding two-way lineman at Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Secondary found himself at a crossroads in his football career, he would up having an aha moment in the pursuit of his dream of playing the college game at the NCAA Div. 1 level.
It had come down to either a career in Canada, at Hamilton’s McMaster University, or a season at a U.S. prep school which would hopefully boost his stock with the U.S. universities, which at the time, weren’t beating a path to his door.
Both rated high in Lawley’s book, but he decided on the latter and jumped a plane to New Jersey after receiving a prep school scholarship to The Lawrenceville School. Lawley opened a lot of eyes this past season, and recently gave his verbal commitment to the University of Connecticut, where next season, as a defensive lineman, he will begin his collegiate career.
“I had verbally committed (to McMaster) and there were some other Canadian schools like Queen’s in the picture,” Lawley said Tuesday from New Jersey, “but the whole time I was doubting the decision. I thought I was good enough to play Div. 1 football and I didn’t want to live my life regretting not trying it.”
It’s all added up to a new chapter in the life of Lawley, who will learn his trade under the Huskies’ recently-appointed head coach Bob Diaco, the former defensive coordinator at Notre Dame who helped lead the Irish into the BCS title game in January of 2013.
“I am super excited about our new staff,” Lawley explained of UConn, which competes in the newly-former American Athletic Conference (formerly the Big East). “Coach Diaco is bringing a new mentality to UConn. It’s known as a basketball school, but he wants it to be known as a football school.”
Lawley certainly did his part in cementing Mouat’s reputation as one of B.C.’s premier football schools, helping captain the squad under head coach Denis Kelly where he was a two-year senior varsity starter at defensive end and offensive guard.
“I think he was more effective on defence, because he was never just a big guy, he was a big guy who could run,” Kelly says of the 6-foot-5 Lawley, who after his season at Lawrenceville tips the scales at 260 pounds. “He can be a pretty tough guy to block from the outside. The thing with Sheriden, with his size and speed, is that he has all the raw materials.”
That combination has always served Lawley well. In fact, Kelly can remember getting a call from a member of the Stanford coaching staff in Lawley’s senior year.
But playing in the same conference as schools like Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Rutgers and Memphis wouldn’t have happened without trusting his gut.
“It was a big transition,” he admits of leaving his comfort zone behind for prep school life in New Jersey. “But it made me more mature and I learned to adapt. I do my own laundry now and I never really got home sick.”
He was too busy chasing his dream.
Lawley will become the first Mouat lineman to play at an NCAA Div. 1 school, but as far as U.S. college careers are concerned, the program run by Kelly is enjoying unprecedented success of late. Linebacker Boseko Lokombo, who just completed his career at the University of Oregon, recently received his invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine, and senior running back Maleek Irons has made his verbal commitment to begin his college career at Div. 1 Ohio University next season.
by Howard Tsunimura, The Province, Jan 28, 2014