It was the first quarter of the fourth football game of the 2017 season for Lawrence High School, and Jacoby Sherard got the call. The fullback took a handoff and, after picking up some yards, a Princeton defender jumped on his back to slow him down. As other tacklers joined in, Sherard fell to the ground and some Little Tigers landed on his ankle and completely snapped it.
The rest of football was over, as was the entire winter track season.
But the junior was a man on a mission and worked himself back in time for spring track and reached the Meet of Champions in the discus.
“I was very impressed with how I did,” Sherard said. “Coming off a broken ankle, I wasn’t sure I would make it out for the season. I one hundred percent thought I could have done better but for how I was, and my state of health and everything, I think I did pretty good.”
Coach Bayshawn Wells felt Sherard’s first trip to the MOC was a pleasant surprise, in a non-surprising kind of way.
“I guess you can say it was expected but still kind of caught everyone off guard because of the injury,” Wells said. “He came out late for spring and the beginning of the season was a little shaky. He got off to a rough start. Once he started getting back to his normal self and his ankle felt comfortable, we noticed his upper body strength was a lot stronger than last year.”
The reason was simple. Sherard was not going to let his injury prevent him from working out in whatever way possible. The initial surgery came two weeks after the injury, as the massive ankle swelling had to subside. A week later he developed an infection and had to undergo another operation.
Sherard spent six weeks being home schooled as he missed classes at LHS for most of October and all of November. He was one of the few people in New Jersey who actually enjoyed the December weather.
“It felt great,” he said. “It was great to get fresh air again.”
Sherard began walking on crutches back at school, and soon limped his way over to the weight room.
“Once I could start walking I was in the gym every day just lifting, doing upper body and all the muscles I could do,” he said. “When I was finally able to get out of the boot and put full pressure on it, it was maybe the end of March. I tried to do certain machines that would not require me to put as much pressure on the leg, just try and do as much as possible and try to build strength in my legs.”
And while the arm is what releases the shot and discus, the legs are what help provide the power. Sherard had more oomph in his upper body but struggled with the legwork early in the spring.
“The injury did force him to get a lot of upper body strength, which was great,” Wells said. “But not being able to work out your legs hindered things as well. Once his foot fully healed, everything kind of came together.”
Wells showed glimpses of what was to come at the Mercer County meet when took second in the discus in 146-3 and sixth in the shot in 45-10.25. At the Central Jersey Group III meet he took fourth in discus in 142-4 but finished 12th in shot and did not advance.
‘So his technique along with natural power, and his quickness—if you bring everything together, you have a great thrower.’
At the NJSIAA Group III meet, a new system was put in place this year to advance to the Meet of Champions. Where it used to be the top 6 finishers in each group plus a few wildcards, this year it was the top two finishers in each group at the two group finals sites, with nine wildcards from each site. Sherard finished sixth in Group III at 148, which was just enough to gain the wild card berth.
“That was great,” Sherard said. “I wasn’t sure if I was gonna make it. But I got squeezed in and it was a great feeling when I made it in there.”
Wells added, “If he did not break his ankle he could probably have thrown harder this year. But to be able to compete at Meet of Champions was great. We knew he had it in him, we just weren’t sure how the foot would be able to hold up for him.”
Sherard finished 21st in the MOC with a throw of 150-2, which was five inches off the personal record he had during a dual meet with Robbinsville this year. Wells said “It was a great experience for him to be there with another year left to throw,” and Sherard learned a few things while he was there.
“It’s the Meet of Champs, all the top throwers in the state are there,” he said. “I was pretty nervous, my coach told not to worry about the opponents and just compete against myself; and it helped me to stay calm.”
Sherard began track in seventh grade at the urging of his older brother, Zach, who was also a football player and thrower. He was aided by Lawrence Middle School coach Chaz Freeman.
“It was very challenging when I first started,” he said. “But I got great coaching. Coach Freeman really encouraged me to stick with it.”
Freeman also told Sherard to go out for the high school team after he took first in shot put in every meet he competed in during eighth grade. He also placed in every discus event but not always in first.
Sherard’s freshman year was a learning experience, and during his sophomore season he qualified for states with a fifth-place discus throw in the CJ III meet. This year he took another step forward despite not being full strength for much of the spring.
“In a sense, his injury helped because he put on more upper body strength, but you could tell it kind of hindered him earlier in the season,” Wells said. “When you’re throwing the disc it’s a lot of spin and you’re still putting a lot of pressure on your foot, particularly on your ankle. I think some of that was in his mind. Even later in the season we had to slow things down because the foot was bothering him. He wasn’t 100 percent, but he did get better.”
He plans on continuing to get better. Football is still his first love—although track is catching up—and Sherard will work on that most of the summer. But he will also get some throwing drills in on his backyard surface.
“I definitely try and work on some technique for shot and disc to make sure I don’t fall that far behind,” Sherard said. “I have a pavement in my backyard that I use sometimes as a circle where I can work technique. I work on my spin and my glide and all that stuff.”
When he’s not doing sports, Sherard volunteers at Hamilton Township’s Light of the World Church, where his dad is the head pastor.
“I also work the sound system there,” he said.
That’s only fitting, as he plans on making more noise in track as a senior.
“I’m hoping to break the discus or shot put record (of 169 and 55 feet),” he said. “I think I’m pretty equal in both events.”
Wells feels Sherard has what it takes to keep getting better.
“He’s a powerful kid, lower body strength, upper body strength,” the coach said. “He also pays attention to detail. If he doesn’t understand something, he’ll ask questions about it until he understands it. So his technique along with natural power, and his quickness—if you bring everything together, you have a great thrower.”