The rain was pouring down on Tozier-Cassidy Field when the Bombardiers and Rocketeers met on Thanksgiving Day 2005 for the right to take home “Hilda,” the trophy awarded to the winner of the annual holiday match-up. As usual, there was a huge crowd despite the monsoon and the players took the field with the excitement of knowing that a win could define their legacies.
In the rain and mud (this was not today’s Tozier-Cassidy with the pristine turf field), one player stood head and shoulders above the others. North Attleboro junior Anthony Sherman scored three touchdowns that day and was in on seemingly every tackle to lead the visitors to a 48-8 win and, in the process, win the second of his three straight Balfour Trophies (as the game’s MVP).
“That late in the year, you always get the elements and those are the fun games, you know, when you can’t see your jersey because it’s so muddy,” said Sherman from Kansas City, where he was in the final days pf preparation for beginning the NFL season. “It’s just fun to go out there and play with your buddies and sometimes it’s your senior year and it’s you last game.”
Sherman is a firm believer in “the long red line” and the traditions of North Attleboro football. Even as he prepares for his fourth season in the NFL and second with the Chiefs, he can recall moments from his time taking the field at Community Field or on Thanksgiving at Beaupre Field or an October snow game against Mansfield at Alumni Field.
Thanksgiving would always be a special day for Sherman because it was against Attleboro in his freshman season that head coach Paul Sullivan (coaching his final game) threw in Sherman for a late carry. Sherman’s uncle won a pair of Balfour Trophies and he followed with three more with seven touchdowns and countless tackles in four dominant Rocketeers performances.
“Ten years down the road you look back and you remember those Thanksgiving Day games, those 10 o’clock starts where you play your heart out for everyone in town,” Sherman reflected. “Those are the biggest crowds of the year — you’ve got everyone there no matter rain or shine.”
When asked what his thoughts were on proposals to get rid of Thanksgiving to facilitate playoffs, he responded, “I heard that they were trying to get rid of it and I understand the whole playoff system and everything but Thanksgiving is such a big part of the tradition in those areas, I think it’s going to be extremely tough to get rid of it. You talk about it all year.”
North Attleboro has a tradition of sustained success in the Hockomock League and every game was going to be a challenge with the Rocketeers always facing “everyone’s best shot.” Sherman added, “At North Attleboro we definitely know that our coaches are going to put us in that situation [to win] and that we’re going to be in big games throughout the year.”
Sherman was a dominant player in the Hockomock League. He set school records with 2,537 yards, 48 touchdowns, and 284 points, while also controlling the other side of the ball from his linebacker position. He was a three-time Hockomock All-Star and in his senior season (2006), he was named Gatorade Player of the Year.
Kurt Kummer, who is currently the school’s athletic director and was head coach for Sherman’s sophomore to senior seasons, credited Sherman for his “instinct, balance, speed, and work ethic.” He added, “No one worked harder.”
In April 2011, Sherman, who played fullback at the University of Connecticut, heard his name called in the fifth round of the NFL draft, the 176th pick overall. He said, “It was a dream come true. To see my name and to get that phone call on Draft Day was an experience that I’ll never forget.”
That journey came full circle in September of 2012 when the second-year Cardinal took the field at Gillette Stadium to take on the New England Patriots. In the stands that day were nearly 100 friends, family, and former coaches and teammates to cheer him on. It was reminder of the tight-knit community of the Rocketeers football program and the town as a whole.
“Just to play there and to play in front of family and friends was kind of like high school all over again where there were 100 people there to wait and see you after,” said Sherman, who was full of praise for North Attleboro.
He added, “It’s such a good town to grow up in. The school system is great. It’s such a community and everyone is so close that you want to stay there; you want to know everyone and go to games and know the guys.”
In May 2013, Sherman was traded to the Kansas City Chiefs and last year helped the team reach the playoffs, while paving the way for lead back Jamaal Charles. That experience has raised expectations for the Chiefs in 2014 and Sherman, who was speaking two days before the opener with the Tennessee Titans, was excited to get back out on the field for “games that count.”
He continued, “I think we have a lot of talent at every position and I think we’ll be better. We know what it took last year to make it to the playoffs, but now we know to step it up a little more to make it to our goal.”
As he gets ready for the opening kickoff to his season, Sherman is still keeping an eye on the Rocketeers. His sister is on North’s cheerleading squad and gives him weekly updates on how the team is doing and he still receives texts from coaches and former players.
He said, “Wherever I’m home for a bye week or home here or there, I always end up trying to get to a North Attleboro football game and go back and see all those guys and see the high school guys play their hearts out on the field.”
Sherman laughed as he thought about the continuation of the North tradition. He said, “It’s funny now that you hear guys’ younger brothers are going through the program and to go out there and watch them play is exciting…to know their experience and what they go through
day in, day out.”
The “long red line” continues on for North Attleboro this fall and thanks to Anthony Sherman that line now extends all the way to the NFL.
Josh Perry can be contacted at JoshPerry@hockomocksports.com and followed on Twitter at @Josh_Perry10.
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