FIU cornerback Jose Cheeseborough took the hard road to football success.
He came to FIU as an unknown walk-on after playing a year at Edward Waters College near his hometown of Jacksonville. That walk-on, all 5-9 and 180 pounds of him, walked right into coach Mario Cristobal’s heart.
“He’s as good a football player and human being that you will find,” Cristobal said. “I gush over the guy because of what he is as a competitor, as a football player, as a person, as a student-athlete, as a teammate and as a leader.
“That guy is good as it gets. He walked on here two years before he earned a scholarship. Nothing was given to him. He earned everything he had, so that’s why he’s a champion, and he’ll be a champion his entire life. Hopefully, he’ll get to play this game for years to come.
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“That young man is what you want your son to be.”
As a 6-year-old or thereabouts, Cheeseborough played flag and Pop Warner football, with one of his teams being called the Mighty Mites.
“Got to play a lot of positions,” Cheeseborough said, “so that was fun.”
He went on to star at Jacksonville Lee High, followed by the brief stint at Edward Waters.
“I really wanted to play Division I ball,” he said.
So he headed south to FIU to get that opportunity. He got it and made the most of it.
“I feel like it has been a pretty productive career at FIU,” he said. “They gave me the opportunity to walk on, and I never looked back. I just came out every day and worked hard and gave it my all. I just try to do my best at anything I do because I know I’m putting my name behind it.”
In 2010, as a redshirt sophomore, he started all 13 games and made 49 tackles. In 2011, he started all 13 games again, making 59 tackles — with three for losses, two for sacks — and broke up three passes. So far this season, with two games to play, he has 42 tackles with an interception and a fumble recovery.
Like everyone on the team, he can’t figure out why a highly regarded FIU squad before the season is saddled with a 2-8 record.
“It’s been pretty tough,” he said. “This is not what we expected. But no matter what, we are still coming and competing in every game and giving it everything we can. The expectations make it difficult, but we just keep pushing.”
For Cheeseborough, the losses make the final two games “really important to me,” he said.
What happens after that? He’ll try for an NFL career, but quickly noted he will have a criminal justice degree to fall back on if necessary.
And he’s also certain about one thing.
“I feel like this program is growing,” he said. “I could see it every year I was here. And when I leave, I expect it to continue to grow. I’m happy I got the opportunity they gave me here.”