Senior linebacker Sterling Sheffield — one of the leaders of a nationally ranked defense that has led the University of Maine to its first berth in the Football Championship Series semifinals in the 126-year history of the program — has been named an FCS second team All-American by the Associated Press.
He was the only Black Bear selected to one of the three teams. He is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the FCS’ top defensive player.
Sheffield is UMaine’s second-leading tackler with 79. He has 46 solo tackles, which is also second most on the team, and has assisted on 33 more.
His 17.5 tackles-for-loss leads the team and his 9.5 sacks tie him for the team lead with junior defensive end Kayon Whitaker. He is ranked 31st among the 124 FCS schools with .73 sacks per game and 35th in tackles-for-loss per game (1.3).
He leads the Colonial Athletic Association in total tackles for loss and TFLs per game, and is tied for third in total sacks and sacks per game.
“It’s great to be recognized. It’s cool,” Sheffield said. “I couldn’t have done it without God, my family, my teammates and my coaches.”
He said defensive coordinator Corey Hetherman puts together excellent game plans, and he has benefited significantly from having a host of teammates around him who continually make big plays.
Sheffield has had at least one tackle-for-loss in 11 of Maine’s 13 games and has had at least one sack in eight games.
He has had three games with a career-high three tackles for loss.
He also has seven pass breakups, five coming in his past four games, a team-high three fumble recoveries, two forced fumbles, two quarterback hurries and an interception.
The 6-foot, 240-pound native of Mullica Hill, New Jersey, is tied for the team-high in forced fumbles.
Sheffield, whose father, Adrian, was a linebacker at Howard University in Washington, D.C., has had seven games this season in which he has been involved in at least six tackles including a career-best 12 tackles in the 31-28 victory over Football Bowl Subdivision team Western Kentucky.
He had 10 tackles in the 17-5 loss to Central Michigan, the other FBS team on UMaine’s schedule.
Sheffield said his father has been a valuable resource for him throughout his career since he played the same position. He has helped teach him how to be a linebacker.
“He has taught me things like formations. We talk after every game. He tells my what I did well and what I could have done better,” Sheffield said.
In UMaine’s playoff wins over Jacksonville State and Weber State, Sheffield has been involved in 10 tackles, nine of which were solos; four tackles-for-loss; and has a sack, a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
UMaine head coach Joe Harasymiak once said about Sheffield, “not only is he athletic, strong and quick, he’s also very, very smart and that’s the difference between great players and good players.”
Sheffield feels this has been his best season and said that the game has “slowed down” for him. He will go into Saturday’s game with 224 career tackles including 43 tackles-for-loss and 22.5 sacks.
Follow BDN Maine Sports on Facebook for the latest in Maine high school and college sports.