Dolphins receiver Trent Sherfield a Textbook example on how to beat the odds

MIAMI GARDENS — The first time Trent Sherfield heard the nickname Mohamed Sanu bestowed upon him — Textbook — he wasn’t overjoyed. But the more Sherfield thought about it, the more it grew on him.

It was, after all, a sign of respect Sanu had for how Sherfield always seemed to have his nose in a playbook.

Plus, perhaps Sherfield realized Textbook is a cooler nickname than Playbook.

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Dolphins receiver Trent Sherfield catches a 33-yard pass in front of Buccaneers safety Troy Warner. The play helped set up a field goal for Miami.
Dolphins receiver Trent Sherfield catches a 33-yard pass in front of Buccaneers safety Troy Warner. The play helped set up a field goal for Miami.

Sherfield is — yes — a textbook example of a guy who just may have found a niche to help beat the odds to make the Dolphins’ roster in a dual role as a receiver and special teams contributor.

Think back the past couple of seasons and you’ll recall how the total contributions by receiver/special teams ace Mack Hollins exceeded whatever one might have expected when he arrived. Hollins now is with the Las Vegas Raiders, who visit the Dolphins in the second preseason game Saturday. That void brings us back to Sherfield, who followed coach Mike McDaniel and receivers coach Wes Welker from the San Francisco 49ers to the Dolphins.

By the time free agency and the draft had finished, Sherfield found himself in a receiving room in which four jobs were spoken for. Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Cedrick Wilson and fourth-round pick Erik Ezukanma aren’t going anywhere. Every receiver the Dolphins keep beyond them is one fewer offensive lineman or tight end they retain.

At age 26, Sherfield has been around long enough to know players must avoid fretting over that numbers game. He stuck with the Arizona Cardinals for three seasons as an undrafted free agent out of Vanderbilt before joining the 49ers last season, when Sanu pinned his nickname on him.

“It really does speak to who I am,” Sherfield said. “To stay around for a long time, you’ve got to be trusted. And for you to be trusted, you have to be able to know your assignment, whatever that may be. I think for me, that’s my biggest asset, being trustworthy. Being in the right spot at all times.”

Orange jersey signifies work habits are getting noticed

Sherfield has consistently done that this training camp, enough to emerge from the pack of 11 receivers with a good chance to stick. Tuesday, while wearing an orange No. 14 jersey to signify that coaches had chosen him the practice player of the day for the previous workout, Sherfield caught short touchdown passes from Tua Tagovailoa and Skylar Thompson in red-zone drills.

Sherfield also caught a 33-yard pass in Saturday’s victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, a game in which Lynn Bowden led the Dolphins with three receptions for 55 yards and a touchdown. If the Dolphins keep six receivers, there’s a strong chance that will be the group.

Entering his fifth NFL season, Sherfield has learned the difference between work that’s productive and work that isn’t. As he was trying to break into the league, he used to arrive at the Cardinals’ facility each morning at 5:30. Doing that meant he beat everybody else. It came at a price.

“I wasn’t getting a lot of sleep,” he said. “There were times when I was in the facility, but I wasn’t really. I wasn’t at the facility that makes sense mentally.”

As for the Textbook nickname, Sherfield lived up to it when he signed with the 49ers last season. He said he spent four to five hours per day studying the playbook.

“And I would take my wife and we would literally go into the backyard or go to a field,” Sherfield said. “And she would literally be my quarterback, and I would just have her call out plays. … I don’t ever want to show up to camp or practice — to anywhere — unprepared. Right? Because that’s my job. I can control that.”

Sherfield caught 19 passes for 210 yards as a rookie in 2018, which was his most productive season on offense. But he contributed at least eight special teams tackles in 2019 and 2020, which helps explain why McDaniel and Welker wanted him to follow them to Miami.

“Whatever it takes,” Sherfield said. “I'm not going to shy away from any job on the team … whether that be special teams, whether it be offense, whatever it may be. Every person on this team has a role, right?”

Not exactly. Some have roles, plural, such as at receiver and on special teams.

“I take pride in being able to do both,” Sherfield said. “And so I’ll step into that role full force if need be.”

Hal Habib covers the Dolphins for The Post. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Post: Sherfield carving out niche despite crowded Dolphins WR corps