Sherman Wood is entering his 21st season as Salisbury’s head football coach. He is the program’s all-time winningest coach and has led the Sea Gulls to 15 consecutive postseason appearances.
Wood was a standout defensive back for the Sea Gulls from 1980 to 1983, recording seven career interceptions and returning two for touchdowns. He began his coaching career in 1984, returning to Salisbury as a coach in 1999.
Wood has also led the Sea Gulls to seven NCAA Tournament appearances in his time at the helm. He has received four Conference Coach of the Year awards and was named the 2011 American Football Coaches Association Region Coach of the Year.
The Flyer had the chance to sit down with Wood and discuss his journey back to Salisbury, the culture he has built, his favorite places to eat around Salisbury and more.
Q: What events led to your return to Salisbury as a coach?
A: After my [playing] career ended in 1983, I had one semester left to graduate, but my eligibility was up. A gentleman who’s now the head men’s lacrosse coach at Gettysburg, Hank Janczyk, got me started into coaching … I started in ’84 as a student assistant, and then in 1985 there was a graduate assistantship open at Bowie State University, so I journeyed there … We took over a program in ’85 that had the longest losing streak in the country, and in three years we ended up going to the national playoffs. That’s when my full-time career started in coaching, after that great turnaround … they promoted me to defensive coordinator and special teams coordinator … In ’92, I was offered another job at Virginia Union University. We were there for one year and after the third game of the season, the head coach was fired … So I was actually unemployed from February to April, and then I get a call from Bowie State, who was looking for a head coach … I was able to get that job, and I was there six years … but all along, I was paying attention to Salisbury. All of a sudden, my name came up, and I thought the school wanted to make a difference, and here I am.
Q: What changes have you made to the culture of the program?
A: Well, when I came in, staff-wise, we had to revamp the staff. Recruiting-wise, we were okay, but we just felt we needed something different. Coach Rob Disbennett touched base with me about this guy named Doug Fleetwood, who I knew for a long time because we recruited a lot of his kids from Cambridge High School. I thought that was a difference, along with his son and some other that came through, to really put a system together. That’s what I wanted. I didn’t wanna be one of those teams where one year you’re running this, the next year you’re running that, then all of a sudden, let’s implement this. I said no, let’s put a system together and believe in it and trust it … At one point in time, we weren’t looking like a football team. Appearance was a big deal to me. I think our presence and the type of program we have now, we’ve got people paying attention.
Q: What factor does the campus play in attracting recruits?
A: It’s a beautiful campus. I hear it all the time … it has a historic feel, especially in the fall, but the facilities and resources are state-of-the-art. I believe the number one factor [for recruiting] is location. When I go into high schools, I circle SU and tell them what’s around us … We’re around the beaches and we’re pretty centrally located from the metropolitan area. Now that we have our stadium, I can tell you there’s a host of Division II recruits and coaches that tell us what we have is better than theirs. That’s why we try to get the best kids we can on campus. Even if they end up going somewhere else, it still gets their attention, and that’s what the campus brings.
Q: What's your favorite place to eat around Salisbury?
A: My favorite place to eat, I’ll be honest, is no longer here. It was the Old West Steakhouse. Where the car wash by Royal Farms is, that’s where it used to be, and that was definitely my favorite place. Right now, it’s gonna sound corny, but Texas Roadhouse is probably the most “makes sense” place in town. You can get an entrée, two sides, free rolls and all the tea you can drink for 10 bucks, man. I think the best burgers in town is Wayback … as long as you get it hot, right off the grill.
Q: What kind of music do you like to listen to getting ready for gameday?
A: I’m very diverse when it comes to music. I like Earth, Wind & Fire, I don’t know what they are, but I think they cover every [genre]. I like the Doobie Brothers, and one of my favorites when I was in high school was Jeffrey Osborne, so I listen to his stuff, and then some Anita Baker.
Q: What’s your favorite NFL team?
A: I grew up watching the Minnesota Vikings. My uncle was a Minnesota Vikings fan. When he introduced me to football, he always had me watching those guys … I was about seven years old then, just watching something, but as I got a little older and started paying attention to the Vikings … legendary coaches like Bud Grant, the Purple People Eaters, Chuck Foreman, Sammy White, Ahmad Rashad, even Fran Tarkenton. The other piece to that, is they recruited small, black college guys. They just looked for the best people. I admire Alan Page, who [was] a judge. Their guys did a lot off the field … I think they made a difference in life and in society. I also liked the Raiders, because back then it was a big deal with the AFC and NFC, so the Raiders were my big AFC team. I liked what they were doing, too, and I was a big John Madden fan.
By NICK LEWIS
Featured photo: Sports Information image.