Cherilus expected to go late first round today
Gosder Cherilus has always been a mountain of a man. When arriving in Somerville from his native Haiti, Cherilus turned heads around the city for his then 6 foot 5 inch, 220 pound frame. Now, two inches and 100 pounds larger, the former Somerville High standout is about to become an NFL lineman. Cherilus completed his senior season at Boston College in January and is now predicted to go in the first round of today's NFL draft.
Cherilus grew up with his mother in Haiti, kicking a soccer ball around. Yet, at an age when most young men are struggling to balance homework and videogames, his mother sent him off to America alone to help his father support the family.
Cherilus enrolled at Somerville High as a sophomore. Upon walking through the halls, guidance counselor and coach Joe Villane noticed the towering student and snatched him for the football team. Despite the fact Cherilus had never even touched a football, he said he quickly declared a desire to one day play in the NFL.
Cherilus had played a different sort of “football” in Haiti, but coaches said the transition was seamless. Cherilus played for the Highlanders all three of his years at the high school.
Joe Curtatone, then assistant coach and now mayor, remembers Gosder being unable to get down in a three-point stance when he started. However, by senior year he was earning both All-American and All-State honors.
Cherilus said he is nothing but grateful for the opportunities his coaches gave him those first couple of years. “Coach [Tony] Gulla was a father figure for a lot of us. For those who couldn't afford cleats, he found a way for us to get jobs so we could… [Coach Curtatone] is one of my good friends. Whenever I have a question or issue, I give him a call and he's always there. He's like a brother to me.”
Following such a successful high school career, Cherilus had his pick of colleges to attend. Ultimately, he said he chose Boston College for their nationally competitive reputation on the field and in the classroom.
In his first year there, he was immediately red-shirted due to a knee surgery the prior season. However, after that, nothing could keep him off the field. Cherilus started at tackle from day one and established a new school record with 51 consecutive starts. The first 39 at right tackle, with the final 12 coming at the crucial left tackle position.
In his four years with the Eagles, Cherilus also had the advantage of an All-American quarterback behind him. Matt Ryan was red-shirted in 2003 with Gosder; the two then set out on four successful years together. Now both are predicted to go in the first round of this weekend's NFL draft.
Cherilus brought Ryan to Somerville two years ago to work with local kids on their gridiron skills. “He was such a great guy-he didn't question it at all. We just came, grabbed some guys from the team, and ran some drills,” Cherilus said.
Although Ryan is lauded as a top-ten pick, Cherilus is not far behind. Many mock drafts have predicted him going late in the first round, often at number 23 to the Steelers or number 29 to the 49ers. Cherilus said he's spoken to “at least 20 or 22 teams.”
Unfortunately for locals, the chances are unlikely they will get to see a hometown hero sporting the Patriot red, white and blue. “I haven't talked to the Pats. Only at the Senior Bowl,” he said.
No matter where he's drafted on Saturday, Cherilus is expected by scouts and coaches to be a mainstay in the league for years to come. Roland James, former NFL star and current director of the Somerville Community Youth Program, said Cherilus is “an outstanding lineman. He's very well put together, has great feet, and is strong as hell. He is a bright prospect for sure.”
James worked with Cherilus last summer at the Community Youth Program's NFL Junior Player Development clinic. He said Cherilus had a genuine interest in the kids, noting that he was easily able to relate to a lot of them.
“[Gosder]'s very intuitive about looking forward and trying to put things in place for the future of Somerville,” James said.
Cherilus cited the biggest accomplishment thus far in his career as “putting myself in the position to give kids hope. Showing them that if I can do it, so can they.”
And his activities off the field reinforce his selfless character. He's been a mentor at Charlestown Middle School, a big brother at the Somerville YMCA, and an influential participant in Somerville High's Best Buddies program.
Unfortunately for Somerville, this Saturday's draft will probably relocate one of the city's brightest stars. Regardless, Cherilus said he will not to forget his city. Remembering his days as a youth hanging out at the Y down on Highland Avenue, he has alluded to plans for a mentoring program to give back to the children of Somerville. He said he has had preliminary discussions about the idea with city leaders and friends who once helped him as a kid: Curtatone, James, and Tom Macony of the Somerville YMCA.
At the least, Somerville will be able to catch Cherilus on Sunday afternoons for years to come. However, he said the city will be with him wherever he lands in next week's draft. “I could never forget my roots, they're what gave me the opportunity to be where I am today. Somerville is my home and always will be.”