The Vikings recognized the 2017 winners of the Minnesota Football Honors on Sunday at U.S. Bank Stadium.
MINNEAPOLIS — Marcus Sherels has defied NFL odds since 2010.
Determination and drive run in the family.
Sherels' older brother Mike became ill with severe intestinal problems last summer and spent five days in an intensive care unit. The initial outlook was grim. Doctors believed that Mike's chance of survival was low.
Marcus asked the Vikings for permission to stay in Minnesota instead of traveling to Cincinnati for practices with the Bengals and the teams' first preseason game of 2016.
"It was just kind of out of nowhere. We were literally getting ready to fly to Cincinnati, and I got that call, and my heart kind of dropped," Marcus said. "I got to the doctor, and the surgeon said he didn't think Mike was going to make it, but Mike is here today, and we're all blessed and lucky."
Doctors removed all of Mike's small intestine and much of his large intestine, but Marcus kept hope high and tried to be strong for their mother Linda.
"It was hard at first, but all of my teammates and the coaches and Vikings staff were extremely supportive, and I thanked them for it," Marcus said. "Knowing my brother and how stubborn and strong he is, I knew he was going to come out [OK]."
Mike not only survived, but he returned to the sidelines last fall for his third season as Golden Gophers linebackers coach. He is on medical leave and must take supplemental nutrition each night but is so grateful to spend time with his wife and their four children. In addition to a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, the couple has twins that are 3 months old.
Mike was presented with the Courage Award by the Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame on Sunday night at the 10th Annual Minnesota Football Honors. The ceremony was held for the first time at U.S. Bank Stadium, which opened last summer.
Moments later, Marcus was recognized on the same on-field stage as the Vikings Special Teams Player of the Year. While Marcus consistently approaches his career with a quiet pride and humility, he explained the sincere happiness he felt from seeing his brother recognized.
"I'm proud of him. He's had a long journey and continued to fight," Marcus said. "I've always looked up to him growing up, and he's always been a hero.
"He's doing well," Marcus added. "He looks good, he feels good, is spending a lot of time with family, so he's happy."
Marcus returned two punts for touchdowns in 2016, providing huge lifts for the Vikings at Carolina and at home against Houston. The pair raised his total to a franchise-record five punt returns for scores. He also contributed significantly on the coverage units. Always humble, Marcus said he thought several teammates could have been selected, adding another layer of significance.
"It means a lot," Marcus said. "There's a lot of guys on our special teams unit who are just as deserving and could have won the award, but they voted for me, and I'm pretty honored.
"[The emphasis on special teams is] awesome. It's been my job for, this is my eighth season, and I've been mainly a core special teams guy, and I love it," Marcus said. "I love playing for Coach [Mike] Priefer, and my teammates work hard."
Three other Vikings were presented awards by Vikings General Manager Rick Spielman on Sunday. Xavier Rhodes was named Defensive Player of the Year, Kyle Rudolph was named Offensive Player of the Year, and recently retired Chad Greenway was recognized as the Vikings Community Man of the Year.
Spielman noted that Rhodes finished second in the NFC with five interceptions on the way to his first Pro Bowl selection.
"[Xavier] is consistently matched up against the opponent's number one receiver," Spielman said. "This year, he's finally earned the attention nationally, which we've known for a long time in-house."
Rhodes said the award "means a lot, and that hard work pays off."
"Thanks to my teammates and everyone for voting for me to get this award," Rhodes said. "It's an honor to be here, stand up in front of the audience and talk to the guys that won awards in the whole state of Minnesota. I would like to say congratulations to them, too."
Vikings Defensive Coordinator George Edwards said Rhodes "definitely makes a big difference."
"Being able to match up against the best receiver from week to week gives us a lot of versatility," Edwards said. "We're glad we've got him, and I appreciate the effort he puts in on and off the field."
Bradford and Greenway were unable to attend the event. Vikings Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur accepted the award on the quarterback's behalf and complimented the way he worked to quickly adapt to Minnesota's scheme and personnel after joining the team right before the season.
"For any player to show up a couple of days before they have to play is tough, especially for a quarterback," Shurmur said. "He arrived in Eden Prairie 13 days before he started against the Packers and led us to victory, which is very difficult, a totally different system, totally different players, really didn't know how we operated, but he was smart enough and trained hard enough."
Bradford filmed a video in which he said the following:
*"It truly is an honor to be named the 2016 Offensive MVP. There's a lot of people who played a part in that. I'd like to thank my teammates and my coaches who have really helped me through a difficult transition last year. Everyone offered a helping hand. Anytime I needed work, they would stay and answer all my questions. Without those guys on the field and in the classroom, just always giving me their extra time, I don't think I would have been able to play the way I did. I'd also like to thank the fans in the community here in Minneapolis. *
*"Anytime you move, it's difficult, but in our profession it's extremely difficult when it happens the week of the season, but everyone we came in contact with was extremely nice. I understand the term 'Minnesota Nice' to another level. That made our lives off the field so much easier. We couldn't have asked for more. It really allowed me to focus on football. I'd also like to congratulate Chad, Xavier and Marcus on their awards. They're all great players on the football field, but even more, they're great teammates and great guys in our locker room. *
"To all of the high school winners, I'd like to congratulate you and challenge you to continue to strive to get better, always set the bar high for yourself, don't let anyone on the outside try to bring you down, and continue to chase your dream, whatever that is."
Two other awards were presented in honor of longtime Vikings.
The Bud Grant Distinguished Minnesotan Award was presented to former state Rep. Morrie Lanning (Moorhead), who co-sponsored the funding legislation for U.S. Bank Stadium.
The award recognizes a person who has made a lifelong contribution to football in the state of Minnesota.
Lanning played high school football before becoming a member of the Concordia College (Moorhead) team that won a national title. Lanning told attendees about the importance of teamwork.
"We're in a facility that is an example of what teamwork can do," Lanning said. "This was not one person's effort, but a whole team of people to make it happen. My Senate co-author Julie Rosen, Governor [Mark] Dayton, [former Minneapolis] Mayor [R.T.] Rybak, [Minneapolis City] Council President Barbara Johnson. It took all of those people, you can imagine, Republicans and Democrats working together — that doesn't happen very often, but it did to get this done."
Lanning said if he wrote a book about the 10-year process of working toward the new stadium, the theme would be, "You can get things done with patience, perseverance and a professional approach."
"I think it really has exceeded all of our expectations," Lanning said. "I give a lot of credit to the Vikings. They have gone above and beyond what we expected in terms of adding features to this facility to make it an even better experience."
The Fred Zamberletti Award was presented to Terry Carlyle, ATC, of Owatonna High School.
Carlyle said Zamberletti, who has been with the Vikings since their inaugural 1961 season, is "legendary." Carlyle is from Colfax, Iowa, about 45 minutes from Zamberletti's hometown of Melcher.
"I can't believe I'm standing on stage in honor of Fred," Carlyle said. "It's just overwhelming to think that I would get this, knowing that he has been with the Vikings for so long and done so much for athletic training in the state of Minnesota."
The following awards also were presented:
Stein-Fallon College Scholar Athlete: Carter Hanson, St. John's University
Scholar athletes: Jacob Brown (Hastings High School), Noah Carlson (Rushford-Peterson High School), Brad Davison (Maple Grove High School), Kellen Erpenbach (Norwood-Young America Central High School), Noah Gindorff (Crosby-Ironton High School), TJ Johnson (Hinckley-Finlayson High School), Joe Russell (Totino-Grace High School) and Eric Wilson (Benilde-St. Margaret's High School).
Bobby Bell College Impact Player of the Year Award: Peter Bateman, University of Minnesota Duluth
Sid Hartman Media Award:Brad Nessler, CBS Sports
Stacy Robinson Leadership Award:Houa Thao, Harding High School
John Gagliardi Legacy Award:Coach Dave Nigon, Totino-Grace High School
Innovative Office Solutions In the Game Award:Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta
Murray Warmath Legendary Team Award:1967 Golden Gophers, Big Ten Champions