RENTON — Some athletes try to shy away from being a role model. Richard Sherman, on the other hand, has been trying to be one since he was a teenager.
And when Sherman makes his first start cornerback Sunday for the Seahawks just seven games into his NFL career, he knows plenty of people back home in Compton, Calif. will be watching, particularly football players at his alma mater, Dominguez High School. But as proud as Sherman is to be representing his high school and home town as an NFL player, he hopes it’s the decision he made years earlier that really sends a message to the young athletes who pass through Dominguez after him.
Back in 2005 when he was a standout receiver and cornerback trying to pick a college, one school showing interest was a USC program in the midst of a dominant run under Pete Carroll. Yet Sherman turned down one of the best teams in the country, and team that played close to home, so he could play for a then struggling Stanford program. So why chose a losing program over one that was regularly going to BCS Bowls?
“I wanted to make a statement to my city,” Sherman said on the day the Seahawks drafted him. “I’m from Compton, and it’s hard for people to understand that you can be an athlete and have high academic standards and achieve high academic things. So, I really wanted to make that known to people that you can go to Stanford from Compton.”
Now that he’s playing and starting at the highest level, Sherman hopes that will only help him get his message across when he visits his school and tells students that they can succeed in academics as well as athletics.
“I go back to my high school all the time. I go back and talk to whoever will listen,” said Sherman, who is believed to be just the second Dominguez grad to attend Stanford. “I want to see everybody succeed from where I’m from. … They can say ‘It’s possible. Anything’s possible, look what he did.’ I think it can give kids a lot more hope of things they can achieve.”
Dominguez High coach Keith Donerson had the same talk with Sherman that he does all of his athletes heading off to play college football.
“I always tell players, ‘When you leave the school and the football program, if you do make it, come back so the story becomes real,’” Donerson said in a phone interview. “I can tell a story, but if he comes back and they can see him, ask questions and things like that, that’s big for our program.
“Him going to Stanford was bigger than him making it to the NFL, especially for kids in the inner city to see that a kid can rise up out of this environment and make it to the highest levels of education.”
Now, barring an unexpected turn of events this week, Sherman will be able to add starting NFL cornerback to his resume along with “Stanford graduate.” Sherman showed promise in training camp and the preseason, but there were no expectations of him playing a big role outside of special teams this season.
When Marcus Trufant went down with what turned out to be a season-ending back injury, Sherman became a backup behind Walter Thurmond, and also played frequently in nickel packages. Then Thurmond suffered a season-ending injury last weekend, moving Sherman into a starting role.
And despite limited experience at cornerback — Sherman spent his first three years at Stanford playing receiver before switching to cornerback — he has impressed his coaches both in practice and as a replacement for Thurmond last week.
“He did very well,” Carroll said. “I was really pleased with his play. I studied it very carefully. I wanted to make sure that I had a good sense for how he did in his first extensive activity. He did well in man-to-man stuff, he did well in the zone stuff and he had a couple nice tackles coming up and was challenged a little bit. It was a good showing for him.”
Quarterback Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral), tight end Zach Miller (concussion), running back Marshawn Lynch (back) and center Max Unger (foot) were all limited in Wednesday’s practice after missing Sunday’s game. Carroll was uncertain on the availability of the three for this weekend’s game.
“We won’t know until game day probably on all of those guys, but it’s encouraging that they’re able to work more,” he said.
Cornerback Brandon Brown missed Wednesday’s practice for non-injury reasons. Safety Kam Chancellor was listed with a knee injury, but participated fully in practice. He briefly left Sunday’s game after twisting his knee, but was able to return.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog