Deonte Sheffield has been through the wringer in Tallahassee.
He spent the first two years of his career waiting for a chance, walking on under Jimbo Fisher and biding his time under Willie Taggart. He played sparingly throughout 2019, logging minutes in four games and scoring a touchdown. When he finally got a chance to perform, it was in the Sun Bowl vs. Arizona State, as a starter due to Cam Akers’ absence.
“It was all God, really,” he says over a phone call on Wednesday, now a tenured Seminole with a scholarship to his name. “Just having a lot of faith. That’s really what got me to where I am today, just a lot of faith in God, really.”
He earned his scholarship under Mike Norvell, in the waning days of the 2020 offseason. It was a moment that he had been promised he would get when he first arrived in Tallahassee and three coaching staffs later, it came to fruition.
“I look at it as God makes no mistakes and all the trials and setbacks and everything I had was a part of the process,” Sheffield said at the time. “You can only control what you can control and even though I had to go through it I feel like it made me into the man I am today and the dog I am today.“
“I had been through so much. I felt like it was supposed to happen.”
“Everybody has a story,” Norvell said in August 2020 after awarding the scholarship. “At the end of the day, what you do with the opportunity is going to be indicative of what your future holds.
“It really didn’t matter to me what somebody was promised or said. if that occurred or didn’t, but like I tell everybody, who you have been in the past, what’s happened in the past, doesn’t matter. Just focus on today.”
Sheffield comes from Niceville, Florida, a small city located in the Panhandle with a population of roughly 15,000 — meaning you could fit at least five Nicevilles in Doak Campbell Stadium. Being from a small city can shape a person in a different way — it influences the desire to be successful and make it out, but also pay it back to honor those that paved the way.
It’s in that second option that redshirt senior running back finds himself, with a eye on coaching in the future whenever the time comes to hang up the cleats. For Sheffield, football is more than a game. It’s a way of life, a tool for helping kids find their footing.
“It’s not just playing it — it’s being around it. I have a passion for it, I love it when I can help kids out, help kids learn the game. I’ve had three different football staffs, so I’ve gotten to learn a lot and I just want to share that [knowledge.]”
GOD is soo good... Keep Climbing Big Sheff this is only the beginning! If only you knew the goals I have in mind- best believe I will go get every single one of them. It’s all about your mindset & approach ⌛️ #NeverQuitNeverGiveUp#BigFaith#Woot @Coach_Norvell @FSUFootball pic.twitter.com/718erVAkDb— Big Sheff (@deontesheff9) August 25, 2020
When landing on a major, he set out to earn a sociology degree, citing it as a prerequisite for making his dream a reality but also mentioning the benefits of taking classes that seek to define the interworkings of society.
“It’s been a long journey — that’s a lot of school. I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve learned how to relate it to life, and to football, to everything.”
Now, having earned his bachelor’s, Sheffield is on track to receive his master’s through FSU’s College of Education, another step in setting up a platform for his future.
His ambition for success in the coaching world is matched and encouraged by his coaches. Norvell himself has spoke on multiple occasions about how football can shape and influence lives, having lived it himself firsthand, while offensive coordinator Kenny Dillingham made it clear in his opening press conference — he’s aiming to be one of the youngest head coaches in college football history.
“Me and him, we talk about coaching a lot,” Sheffield says. “He loves me, he loves how I know ball.”
“He told me, once he gets a job, I’m going to be one of his first hires.”
It’s obvious that the running back would envision himself as a running backs coach, at the very least on the offensive side of the field. But he says, it doesn’t matter where he ends up.
“To be honest, I can do anything — because I just love ball.”