PEMBROKE — Being the only player from Lumberton on The University of North Carolina at Pembroke football roster, Josh Sheridan has had lots of inspiration behind his play since his hometown and his team have been affected by Hurricane Matthew.
“I mostly did it for my city. My city was down and I just wanted to make them happy by getting the W,” Sheridan said following the win over Kentucky Wesleyan in the first game since the storm led to flooding, thousands evacuating their homes and power and water outages to his hometown.
The Braves have continued their success from the 2016 season in the midst of the adversity with three wins in a row, and two since the storm. While the Kentucky Wesleyan game was played at Scotland High School last weekend, Saturday’s homecoming game carried the emotions from a typical homecoming game on top of the trying to help the healing process for an area where the wounds are still fresh. On every UNCP helmet on Saturday was a gold ribbon decal with the saying “#RobCoStrong,” as a reminder for the team that their impact goes beyond just their team and university, but to the surrounding region that had suffered profusely since Oct. 8.
“They needed something to get it off their mind,” Sheridan said. “I wish more of them could’ve came out today so they could have an eased mind, but I’m happy for the ones that came out to support us and show us they care.”
While the Lumberton High School graduate’s home was not one of the many in town that were hit with the brunt of the blow that came from flood waters ravaging the area, he did carry the pain that his city was feeling with him to Wingate University, the site where the Braves practiced the week following Hurricane Matthew.
“It motivated me to go one more extra rep and keep going hard because I know what they’re going through and I just wanted to make an impact,” Sheridan said. “That’s what I do it for, my city.”
While practicing and lifting in an unfamiliar situation like Wingate preparing to play in another new territory at Scotland for a “home game,” Lumberton was still on Sheridan’s mind and there were moments of worry for the 2014 Robeson County and Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the year.
“I was a little worried because a lot of people didn’t have power so they weren’t able to charge their phones and I was worried because they weren’t texting back. So that was on my mind,” he said. “Once they got power they were able to text me back and I felt a lot more calm knowing they were all right.”
Sheridan was a standout running back in high school, earning the Offensive Player of the Year with 1,600 yards and 20 touchdowns as a senior. With a wealth of running backs on the team, he has seen most of his time on the field on the special teams and kickoff units.
As the community has grown closer following the catastrophe, the adverse situations for the Braves as a result has brought the players together as well. The team went its separate ways on Sunday, Oct. 9 as it returned from its road trip to Lenoir-Rhyne, and when news broke of flooding in Lumberton the following day, Sheridan’s teammates were quick to check in on a teammate.
“I thanked my team because a lot of them kept checking on me because they know I’m from Lumberton. They kept asking about my family and my friends and I really thanked them for that,” Sheridan said. “It shows how much they really care. This team is not really a team, it’s a family.”
The lesson that many in Lumberton and Southeastern North Carolina have learned through these trying times is the same that Sheridan has learned.
“Just don’t take nothing for granted,” he said.
Contact Jonathan Bym on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.