As football fans, we’ve all heard of these awesome ‘Rags to Riches’ storylines in the big leagues like the NFL, NBA and MLB but as big as the CFL is, we haven’t been able to see a lot of stories about the players up here and their paths to professional football.
Last year, on October 11th there was a documentary released on both TSN and CTV W5 about the long football journey of Sherrod Baltimore. Watching the documentary, many were inspired and began to realize that the guys in the CFL are working just as hard as those who have made it into the NFL and since joining the Ottawa Redblacks Sherrod Baltimore has also found himself respecting more of the journeys that Canadian athletes have taken to a high level of football. Baltimore makes a comment, “Growing up in the DMV (Prince George County, Maryland) I fought a lot of adversity, but as I stand as a pro in Ottawa I see a lot of guys in this city and in Canada that are fighting adversity in their football journeys as well.”
Looking more in depth at Sherrod’s journey, he was born and raised in Prince George County, Maryland where like he mentioned he had adversity. Coming to moments where he didn’t have a place to stay, and didn’t know where his family was he was heavily motivated to have success in life, his route being through sports.
Baltimore has been an athlete his whole life, starting out playing both Basketball and Football at a younger age and having success throughout high school playing with both the Oxon Hill Roadrunners and Friendly High School in Maryland. Having the on-going success that he had in the two sports, he thought that he could’ve even made it into the NFL and NBA as a dual sport athlete. As much as it seemed possible as a child though, he had to make a big decision to quit basketball and focus on football, even making the change from quarterback to defensive back to get more attention from schools at the next level.
Although the change to defensive back may have not made his a 5 star recruit right off the bat, Sherrod Baltimore found himself as a 1 star defensive back coming out of high school where he went on to earn a full ride division one scholarship at the University of Maine.
Fast forwarding through his career at Maine, Baltimore made an impact on the defence right from his freshman year where he was able to make 6 tackles, 2 pass deflections and an interception in limited playing time being found in 9 games that season. Those numbers, being put together as a backup only led him into a larger role with the team where he was later given a starting role on the defence making over 70 more tackles over the other 3 seasons as well as 9 more pass deflections, 2 interceptions and a force fumble. Of course these numbers may not be first round numbers for the NFL although Baltimore was on some team’s radars going into the draft process he comments, “I had a good last year at Maine and thought I could’ve had a shot at the NFL.”
Unfortunately for Sherrod Baltimore that thought didn’t come into reality but the situation couldn’t have been brought to a better person, “I fought a lot of adversity growing up, I knew it wasn’t the end of my career, I just had to keep working.” he says.
Coming off that career at U of Maine, Baltimore wanted to stick around at the university, helping coach the defensive backs there for the 2016 season. While coaching, he was even able to keep working out and pushing for an opportunity at the professional level and fortunately for Sherrod, there couldn’t have been a better place to be pushing his opportunities. While coaching at Maine, he was able to meet with several professional scouts from both the NFL and CFL. Talking about that process he mentions, “I mean there were a lot of scouts coming in and out of the university so I was interacting with them every week sending my film to them hoping they’d like it but no one ever responded until JM from Ottawa came through.” One of the scouts that had come through the university while Sherrod was coaching there was Redblacks’ scout Jean-Marc Edme. Jean-Marc, who also goes by JM comments, “It was nice talking to him, I remember him asking if we needed DBs and as a professional team we are always looking… I was able to watch his film from Maine and it was too good not to show Marcel (Desjardins).” Showing Redblacks’ general manager, Marcel Desjardins the film, Sherrod Baltimore was able to get a try out with the Ottawa Redblacks ahead of the 2017 CFL season where he would go on to be the Redblacks’ rookie of the year.
Making his presence felt right off the bat, Baltimore made 47 tackles in the 13 games he played in 2017. He was a big help in leading the Redblacks to the playoffs and was a fan favourite for many fans in the stands.
The great rookie campaign went similar to his freshman season at Maine where he was able to expand his role for the next season. In 2018, going into his last year on his CFL entry contract Sherrod Baltimore really made a name for himself. Although he was coming on and off of the practice squad and only was able to play in 13 games Baltimore finished with 2 interceptions in the regular season and had an additional two in the post season, one coming in the biggest game of the year, the Grey Cup!
Unfortunately for the Redblacks, the Grey Cup won’t go down as a win in the history books, but the interception will be in Baltimore’s memories for life, he said “Being able to make that big of a play in front of that many fans, that was an unreal experience.”
Coming off back to back great seasons, the Redblacks’ re-signed Baltimore under a one year deal and although the 2019 season wasn’t the best season on paper the Redblacks’ were glad to keep Sherrod around as he made a great impact on the city of Ottawa off the field. Since being signed in 2017 he’s been able to meet so many great people in the community and has been a participant at a lot of charity events but the way he looks to make an impact is through the game of football.
He mentions, “In Ottawa there are so many great athletes. We’ve all seen the hockey players with it being the number one sport in the city and in Canada but the city’s football is very underrated yet so good.” Sherrod continues, “Over my time being here I’ve been a lot of guys go to the next level through football but there’s also a lot of untouched talent here as well and its about time we start making the city more known so we get opportunities for everyone.”
To help start a movement and to really make the city of Ottawa recognized world wide, Baltimore has connected me (Jordan Zlomislic) with a group of awesome people to come together on a huge project on the city of Ottawa and the football here. Baltimore comments, “Helping get these guys to the next level, and fighting through the tough journey are a lot of great people, Coach Jean (-Sorphia Guillaume) being a key name.” Over the last years we’ve been able to see the success come from coach Jean at the high school level with St Matthews although Guillaume has been doing way more than just coach football and its time people recognize the on going impact he has on the city of Ottawa and the football in Canada.
Starting today, October 24th 2020 the city of Ottawa will be showcased through a 4 part documentary. The Documentary put together by myself, a Ottawa Redblacks’ junior reporter, Sherrod Baltimore CFL defensive back and Coach Jean Guillaume will touch on every single part of Ottawa and the football being played in the city while telling you all about the journey these athletes from Ottawa have to go through to play at a high level of football.
Learn more about Redblacks’ defensive back Sherrod Baltimore and the city of Ottawa now at the link below.