BANGOR – The status of football at any level this fall is up in the air as of now, but the uncertainty of the season doesn’t change the players need to stay ready for when decisions are made on the preseason.
Their paths to the CFL both went through Orono, but getting back on the field in the Great White North will be a very different experience for former UMaine defensive standputs Sterling Sheffield and Sherrod Baltimore.
After four years in the secondary for the Black Bears, Sterling Sheffield joined the Calgary Stampeders. He was given a training camp tryout with the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals, but eventually signed to the Stampeders’ practice squad as a defensive lineman. Sheffield would go on to make three game appearances by the end of the 2019 season;but now he’s home in New Jersey, unsure of when he’ll be back across the border. “My flight was supposed to leave on the 11th but obviously that’s postponed and right now training camp is postponed indefinitely,” Sheffield said Saturday.
Trying to stay in game shape has been difficult for Sheffield, just like it has for many other athletes without a full home gym. He said he has been reduced to pushing his mom’s SUV up the street near his home for weight training, “that’s literally the only type of heavy lifting that’s available for me to do…and keep my wind up with running and everything, push ups and sit ups.”
Positive thoughts about the current circumstances are key for Sheffield, and he’s enjoying some rare extended time at home with his family and girlfriend. “Really, this is the first time we’ve been able to spend that much time together because I’ve been on the road so much in the past year,” he said.
On the flip side of the border in Ottawa, separated from his family in Maryland, Redblacks fan favorite Sherrod Baltimore is very thankful for technology. “Thank god for iPhones and Whatsapp I can video [chat with] them and it’s like I’m already there,” he said Saturday.
The defensive back signed a one year extension with Ottawa in January through the 2020 season. He’s working with a consistently with a trainer since January ahead of his contract year training camp. Baltimore told his trainer recently he needed a week off, and due to COVID-19 he got more time off than he bargained for. “Once you’re at it every week and every month it gets repetitive, you got to be careful what you ask for, I said I need a week not months (laughs),” said Baltimore.
Baltimore and the Redblacks made the CFL Grey Cup in 2018 and, after a disappointing showing last year, he is hopeful that he will get a shot a redemption this fall. “We’re just going to build that camaraderie, get things back, get that winning culture back, that Grey Cup culture back, that’s it and that’s all,” said Baltimore.