If you can forget for a moment the talk of “mediocre” receivers, if you can overlook “U Mad Bro?” and “I'm better at life than you,” what you're left with is what Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider accurately described as a “truly a great American story right here.”
From Compton to Stanford to draft-weekend afterthought to the best cornerback — and after Wednesday, the highest-paid as well — in the NFL, it's all rather remarkable.
“If you believe in faith, hard work, parental guidance and education, this is your guy for your kids to look up to and to strive to be,” Schneider said. “This is a guy who's been raised right and has worked his tail off to be where he is right now.
This day was the final big move in what has become a wildly successful offseason for the defending champs. Even though the Seahawks didn't make any significant additions in free agency, they accomplished their goal of keeping their key players, re-signing Michael Bennett, extending the contracts of Earl Thomas and Sherman, and they even managed to keep, at a reduced cost, Sidney Rice and Zach Miller, two players who seemed destined to be cap casualties this offseason.
But as much as this day was an affirmation of Pete Carroll's and Schneider's message that they'll take care of their own, it was also a chance to celebrate one of the most unique and talented athletes to ever call Seattle home.
And what makes Sherman so unique, what make's his story such a compelling one, isn't the fact that he went from the inner city to financial success, or that he's a fifth-round pick turned All-Pro who just signed a four-year extension that includes $40 million in guaranteed money. Sports are full of both rags-to-riches stories and draft-snubs-turned-stars. What makes Sherman's story so good is his awareness that football just happens to be his vehicle to greatness, and that it by no means defines him.
Sherman chose Stanford over Carroll's USC in part to show that a kid from Compton's Dominguez High could attend and graduate from one of the best schools in the country. He and older brother Branton have put a lot of time and money into Sherman's “Blanket Coverage” charity that helps underprivileged kids because Sherman understands that everyone, even the self-proclaimed best corner in the game, needs a little help to overcome adversity. Sherman understands that a lot of genetic good fortune helped him get to this day, but he also knows how important something as simple as having parents like Beverly and Kevin Sherman, who harp on the importance of hard work and education, can be for any child.
“This is a huge day for our parents,” Branton Sherman said. “It just shows all their hard work. Hopefully this can inspire other parents in the inner city to let them know if they work hard, be supportive, discipline their kids, they can reach this moment.”
At a time when a lot of athletes avoid controversy at all costs, Sherman embraces it while at the same time opening the door for meaningful discussions. Since becoming a Super Bowl champion, Sherman has been named to Time Magazine's 100 most influential people list, he's been playfully mocked by Barack Obama while attending the White House Correspondents' dinner and now as a very rich man, he plans on continuing to use his platform for much more than football.
“I want to change the discussion and give those kids aspirations for other things; to be doctors, lawyers, to be deep in the world of academia, be in an educational field,” Sherman said. “Show them success in other walks of life. The more kids we influence in that regard, the more we give kids inspiration to do more than just sports, to do more than just what they see, the more we'll see success from the inner city, the more we'll see kids thriving in the inner city and wanting more and doing more, and hopefully that means a better world for us.”
Sherman's point is this: he went from being a kid who “wore slippers to school every day with holes in them, wore the same hand-me-down clothes,” to being rich and famous because he's a rare blend of intelligence, athleticism and incredible drive. But that doesn't mean his is the only path to success.
“Regardless of your aspirations in life, regardless of what you want to be, you have a chance to make it as long as you believe, have faith and work hard,” he said. “Obviously there is a little bit of luck involved along the way, there are things that need to fall your way as they do in any situation, but hard work and dedication will take you pretty far.”
As for Sherman the football player, he insists nothing on the field changes now that he's the highest-paid cornerback in the game. He may be set for life financially, but he'll always remember that every NFL team, the Seahawks included, didn't see him as being worthy of a pick in the first four rounds of the 2011 draft.
“You never lose that mentality,” he said. “You can take a ragged dog that has been on the streets for 10 years and put him in a brand new house with steak and lobster every night, and he's still the raggedy dog that you got off the streets. So I'm still the raggedy dog off the street.
“That mentality isn't something that I can change. Even I wanted to, I can't do it, It's not a switch that I have, I've always been in this mentality; I don't know anything else. This is how I'm going to be until I hang the cleats up, then I might try to eat caviar and drink wine or whatever (millionaires) do.”
Richard Sherman has plenty of good years of football left in him — hence the Seahawks giving him this massive contract — but what makes him one of sports' most intriguing stars, one of Time's most influential, a receiver of Presidential barbs, is that he understands how much more is out there for him and for those he hopes to inspire.
“This,” Sherman said on the day he made it, so to speak, from a financial perspective, “is kind of fairy tale beginning.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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