Don Cherry has fallen on the positive side of karma, where good intent and good deeds contribute to future happiness.
It’s not spiritual karma, but the physical kind, the hands in the dirt, keep your helmet strapped tight and fight harder every play than the guy across with you kind of karma.
An All-American linebacker out of Villanova University, the Trumbull High graduate has signed an NFL free agent contract to play for the Chicago Bears. He reports to camp in Lake Forest (Ill.) on Sunday.
“I suppose it’s been in the back of my mind since high school,” Cherry said. “I went to Villanova to play football and keep my career going. After my junior year, people starting talking NFL to me. I pushed it into the background. I wanted to stay in the moment as a Wildcat football player. Now that it’s here, the chance to play in the NFL, it’s crazy to think about.”
As a Wildcat, the 6-foot-1, 240-pound Cherry finished second in the final voting for the Buck Buchanon Award, which is given to the top defensive player in FCS football.
Cherry started all 14 games as a senior, when he registered 134 total tackles (82 solo), 21.5 tackles for loss, 10 sacks, five forced fumbles, one interception and a fumble recovery.
He tallied double figures in tackles in seven of the 14 games, including a career-high tying 16 tackles in a quarterfinal playoff loss to Sam Houston State.
“It’s been a great four years at Villanova,” said Cherry, who texted with defensive coordinator/linebacker coach Billy Crocker and spoke with Villanova head coach (now retired) Andy Talley upon signing with the Bears. “I’m grateful to my coaches and teammates for preparing me.”
A first team All-CAA honoree, Cherry was also named a second team Capital One Academic All-American.
Cherry became the first Villanova Wildcat in four years to register at least 100 tackles in a single season.
His 134 tackles ranks as the 10th best single season effort in program history.
He finished his career with 331 tackles, including 46.5 tackles for losses.
“It’s a long journey to signing and making the 53-man roster,” Cherry said. “The season finished in the end of November and the phone call came in April. In between you go a little crazy, doing anything you can to stay ready. The key to the process is to stay patient. They (agent Joe Linta, family, friends) told me that I’d done what I could and it (the draft) was out of my hands.”
The control returns to Cherry come Sunday.
Cherry played mostly special teams as a freshman at Villanova. He went from starting linebacker as a sophomore, to a key playmaker as a junior, to becoming an All-American as a senior.
The Bears and head coach John Fox will sign on the dotted line for that type of forward movement from their latest acquisition.