In life, we all have dreams of making it big. However, it takes a lot of hard work, patience, and dedication to even have a shot at those dreams. In the football world, linebacker Cecil Cherry has defied odds time and time again on the road to becoming a pro. This journey has taken him all over the United States, and he’s had the chance of working with some amazing people along the way.
Cherry was born in Frostproof, a small town in Polk County, Florida. Situated between the bustling cities of Tampa and Orlando, Polk County has produced plenty of talented football players over the years, such as Alvin Harper, Travis Henry, and Derwin James.
Cherry grew up in a football-filled environment, eventually committing to play for Tennessee in 2014. He later switched his commitment to Texas, but never played a snap for the Longhorns. He decided to transfer somewhere closer to home, which ended up being the University of South Florida. In 2016, Cherry recorded 30 tackles for the Bulls. Some of his teammates would go on to play at the next level themselves, including Quinton Flowers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, D’Ernest Johnson, and Marlon Mack.
Seeking a larger role, Cherry ended up at Coahoma Community College for the 2017 season, which is located in Mississippi. He quickly became one of the best linebackers in NJCAA football, recording 104 tackles, 8 tackles for loss, 3 pass deflections, 1 forced fumble, and 1 interception. Those 104 tackles were a conference record, and helped Cherry win the Defensive Player of the Year award. Additionally, he was given JUCO All-American honors. Coahoma has produced NFL talent, with Jaguars cornerback Chris Claybrooks, Eagles linebacker Davion Taylor, and Seahawks running back Josh Johnson all joining the program before leaving for larger schools.
Cherry went back to DI football in 2018, landing at Louisiana’s Grambling State University. Although he had a decent season on the field, which included his first career pick-six, Cherry made even bigger moves away from the game. He would go on to graduate with a degree in criminal justice, proving that the term “student-athlete” is still valid.
In his final year of college football, Cherry played at Tennessee-Martin, where he had the most productive campaign outside of JUCO. He recorded 83 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 6 pass deflections, 4 sacks, and a forced fumble. Cherry earned National Player of the Week honors for an outstanding performance against Jacksonville State, recording 15 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, and 2 sacks.
After spending two years in the FCS, Cherry wasn’t immediately recognized by the NFL, in part because COVID-19 canceled his pro day. Instead of giving up, he started looking at other options. In 2021, Cherry drove from Frostproof to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to try out for the Fan Controlled Football league (FCF). It was there where he met coach John Jenkins, who Cherry claimed was a major factor in furthering his career. Jenkins immediately saw Cherry’s drive and effort, which would later land him a contract with the FCF Glacier Boyz.
Cherry took advantage of his first stint as a pro, developing relationships with more players and coaches. Johnny Manziel and Josh Gordon were the most impactful, both giving Cherry insight about football and life in general. After the FCF season concluded, Cherry went straight to The Spring League (TSL), where he was identified as a top prospect during his time with the Sea Lions.
Later that year, Cherry was invited to a HUB Football camp, where he worked alongside former Alabama standout/first-round draft pick Reuben Foster and Super Bowl 50 champion Brandon Marshall. All three play the same position, which meant Cherry could focus on specific skills and techniques. In just a few months, Cherry was really starting to make a name for himself, always being in a position to succeed.
Despite having all of the best traits a football player can possess, he couldn’t have reached that point alone. Two of the biggest factors in Cherry’s life are family and god, which motivated him to keep going regardless of whether times were good or bad. Additionally, it reminded him of why everything was so important, and that he’d come too far to give up.
In order to provide for his community, Cherry launched a youth foundation meant to give kids both an education and a good time. Cherry had plenty of mentors when he was growing up, including Hall of Fame linebacker Ray Lewis. Now, Cherry wants to pass on similar advice to the next generation. His work has been recognized by many in the area, and the impact is still becoming more widespread through various functions and events.
Cherry shared a message from Pro Bowl linebacker Denzel Perryman, who currently plays for the Las Vegas Raiders. Perryman told Cherry that he was proud of him, and that all of this hard work would eventually make things easier. Cherry would also like to thank Artavis Pierce (ex-Bears), Montrel Meander (Browns), Dexter Williams (Browns), Alexander “AJ” Johnson (Broncos), PJ Locke (Broncos), Ray-Ray McCloud (Steelers), Cameron Sutton (Steelers), Kris Boyd (Vikings), DeShon Elliott (Ravens), D’Onta Foreman (Titans), and many others.
All in all, Cherry has one of the best stories you can hear from a football player. He never stopped working, and is finally getting some of the recognition he deserves. In 2022, Cherry is preparing for his next chance at a pro day, which will take place at Tennessee-Martin. Wherever he ends up next, he’ll continue to dominate and set an example for others to follow.
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