NFLPA Game: Sheffield hopes to pass the test

By CRAIG HALEY

STATS FCS Senior Editor

(STATS) - All the key measurables will be documented with the players at the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this week - height, weight, arm length, hand size and more.

One standout, Maine linebacker Sterling Sheffield, was listed as 6-foot-2, 237 pounds during his senior season.

"6-1, 6-2," he remarked on its accuracy. "6-2 on a good day."

On the field, Sheffield usually has a good day. His many intangibles can't be measured, or overstated, because his drive and determination pass the eye test.

The NFLPA all-star game, set for the Rose Bowl on Saturday, is a big opportunity for Sheffield. The STATS FCS All-American, who helped Maine to a CAA Football title and its first appearance in the national semifinals, is being asked to shift to inside linebacker at the next level after dominating on the outside as a collegian.

Hs 34½-inch arms and 6-10 wingspan - yes, excellent measurables - will help him take on blocks and get to ball carriers. He's also accustomed to covering quick slot receivers, so the bigger tight ends won't be so elusive.

"Everything comes a lot faster," said Sheffield, who will play for the American team. "Obviously, you're dealing with 300-pound linemen a lot more than I did as a SAM (strong outside linebacker), as a Rover."

Maine has a strong recent history of producing NFL players, including Sheffield's former teammate and close friend Jamil Demby, an offensive guard with the Los Angeles Rams, who, like Sheffield, is from South Jersey.

Sheffield could be next in line. He was Maine's third-leading tackler in each of his final three seasons. As a senior, he ranked first in the CAA in tackles for loss (18) and tied for third in sacks (9½).

"I think I do a really good job with reading plays, my instincts as a football player and as a linebacker specifically," he said. "Also, I think I do a very good job with my tackling and shedding blocks. Those are two things that I have to flourish with inside. And also my blitzing. I think my blitzing is my best part as a football player.

"Right now, I'm working on staying low and having a better base as an inside linebacker. When I was playing Rover, they didn't get me to worry about my stance as much because I was worried about covering and being outside."

Sheffield said he's long felt overlooked - the chip on the shoulder that is so common with FCS players on the lower end of Division I. As he said, "You just have to be able to prove people wrong."

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FCS Players at 8th NFLPA Collegiate Bowl

5 p.m. ET Saturday at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California (FS1)

American Team (coach Chuck Pagano): Duquesne WR Nehari Crawford (uniform number 82); The Citadel MLB Noah Dawkins (58); Columbia LS Patrick Eby (64); Idaho State OT Brian Fineanganofo (67); North Dakota CB Deion Harris (24); Youngstown State C Vitas Hrynkiewicz (70); Rhode Island QB JaJuan Lawson (15); North Dakota RB John Santiago (22); Maine LB Sterling Sheffield (56); Dayton P Sean Smith (18); Incarnate Word LB Silas Stewart (54)

National Team (coach Mike Tice): Northern Arizona WR Emmanuel Butler (81); San Diego OT Daniel Cooney (75); Northwestern State LB Obinna Iheoma (51); Nicholls WR Damion Jeanpiere (88); Eastern Washington CB Josh Lewis (31); Chattanooga DT Isaiah Mack (98); Weber State OG Iosua Opeta (65); Eastern Washington DT Jay-Tee Tiuli (99); Southern Utah OT Marquez Tucker (76); Murray State LB Quincy Williams (54)

Updated January 15, 2019

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