Richard Sherman isn’t a thug, and anyone who suggests that is uninformed and not worthy of your time. Sherman is a Stanford-educated NFL player who has started his Masters degree. He had a 4.2 grade point average at Dominguez High School in Compton, California, ranking second in his class.
He’s become the best cornerback in the NFL.
His brash, relentless trash talk on the field? It’s all calculated, an act he’s had since his days playing youth football.
When you’re a converted wide receiver and a 5th-round draft pick and playing in the Northwest, you need shtick. Sherman turned into a solid defensive back at Stanford – he had a pick-six in Stanford’s memorable 55-21 rout of USC, better known as the “What’s your deal?” game – but as a senior he only garnered honorable mention all Pac-10 honors. When Sherman got to the NFL and quickly became one of the best at his position, he largely went unnoticed. In 2011, Sherman was the 16th best cornerback in the league according to Pro Football Focus statistics, but all anyone wanted to talk about was Darrelle Revis of the Jets. But when Revis was injured in 2012, Sherman made his move, taking his trash-talking shtick to levels that Deion Sanders never reached.
Getting in Tom Brady’s face to scream at him after a win over the Patriots? That got Sherman noticed. At the time, I thought it was hilarious. This Jets fan enjoyed Sherman’s cocky, mouthy attitude. It put him on the map.
Seattle made the playoffs, beat the Redskins in Washington, and Sherman felt like jawing with someone afterward. Fearless, Sherman got in the face of Washington offensive lineman Trent Williams. Williams mushed him.
Then, something funny happened: Atlanta’s Roddy White beat Sherman in a playoff game for a touchdown (Sherman made a nice play earlier in the game, and let everyone know about it, natch), and the cornerback was finally on the receiving end of trash talk. Humbled for a nanosecond, probably.
But you know the ego on these elite athletes – a requirement of playing cornerback is having a short memory, and Sherman, clearly excited about Seattle’s future prospects, went after Revis on Twitter in February 2013. It felt like a ‘You come at the King, you best not miss‘ moment, but Sherman followed up that publicity spike with an appearance on ESPN’s First Take, where he stitched a clown suit on Skip Bayless. “I am better at life than you” and “you’ve never accomplished anything” were just two of the memorable barbs, and this made Sherman a hero.
Sherman’s no fool. Emotional? Definitely. Hilarious? If he’s on your team, yes; if you’re going against him, no. His play to seal the Seattle win in the NFC Championship was phenomenal, and given his history with Crabtree, gloating was in order. But in an interview on national television, with 59 million people watching? My not-so-hot take: It wasn’t the time or place for that type of rant. His coach, Pete Carroll, seems to agree. I get that Sherman was emotional, and if I made the same play at 25 there’s a very good chance I would have been popping off as well.
But for a guy who has crafted and cultivated this image for years, the moment has already has served Richard Sherman well. The “dreadlocked motormouth” is the story after NFL Championship weekend, not Peyton Manning or Russell Wilson. He’ll be the story Super Bowl week. The Erin Andrews interview moment will be a boon for Sherman – his agent will be fielding marketing calls for the next few months. Regardless of whether the Seahawks win or lose the Super Bowl, Sherman will be in high demand on the talk show circuit. He’ll have a busy offseason, and, when the 2014 preseason rolls around, expect lengthy features in every print publication and on every major sports network.
That said, go take him to school, Demaryius Thomas.