LUMBERTON — When Lumberton senior Demetri Sheridan was in his freshman football season, he learned just how quickly an opportunity can go away.
While scrimmaging, he suffered a broken shoulder and found himself worried he might not make it back onto the gridiron.
“It hurt me because I loved football. I cried because I couldn’t come back and play,” Sheridan said. “It was hard because I thought I wasn’t going to get back to the way I used to be.”
The injury didn’t set him back too far. After five weeks of recovery, he was back on the field and quickly moved up the ranks of the program. This year he was named a captain and wrapped up his career as one of the state’s top tacklers, garnering the Robeson County defensive player of the year award, among other accolades.
“It felt like all the work I had this year paid off,” Sheridan said. “All these years grinding paid off.”
His leadership abilities and focus on academic excellence were among the reasons he was chosen as January’s Mountaire Farms/Civitas Media Scholar Athlete of the Month.
The program’s mission is to highlight male and female senior student-athletes within Robeson, Scotland and Bladen counties who carry a 3.0 GPA or higher. Nominees need to also be recognized by their coaches for outstanding sportsmanship and perform with superior ability in athletic competition.
Each monthly winner receives a $1,000 college scholarship and becomes eligible for an additional $1,500 in college funds that is awarded in June to the male and female scholar athletes of the year.
In addition to his football ability, Sheridan is also a captain and one of the leading scorers on the Pirate basketball team, averaging a double-double, and had a 4.4 weighted GPA, which puts him among the top 30 in his class.
“I walk in the gym before practices and see him doing homework in the bleachers and I see how other players respect him both on and off the court,” said Mackie Register, the Lumberton basketball coach and athletic director. “He is a great leader for both the football and basketball teams as well as for the students at LHS.”
From when he was young, Sheridan had a high emphasis placed on his school work. He grew up in Fairmont, but moved to Lumberton in seventh grade to focus on his academics.
“My parents always told me to put school first before anything,” Sheridan said. “Practicing late hours, you’ve got to know that you want to do it because you know that football and basketball isn’t everything. You’ve got to provide for your family one day.”
Though his college plans are still in the works, he’s had several schools show interest in having him play football. He hopes he gets the chance to do that while studying law.
Between sports and school, Sheridan hardly has time for much else. He’s involved in Beta Club and National Honor Society and also contributes to his church youth group, where he’s helped mow lawns for the elderly and volunteered time to help the homeless.
“You never know when it could be you next, like them out on the streets, so you’ve got to help them because one day they could be helping you,” Sheridan said.
It’s an unselfishness that even translated to the football field. Lumberton struggled this season, dealing with high-profile injuries and a mid-season coaching change. The team’s only win came in the final game of the year, but Sheridan was a constant presence and racked up 187 tackles, one of the highest totals in the state. He did it with the program’s future in mind.
“Being a senior, I didn’t have a chance to have a great senior year but coaches and everyone had been telling me to push the younger guys because it’s really not about me,” Sheridan said.