SEATTLE — The Legion of Boom was the personification of a glorious era of Seattle Seahawks history. They were brash, charismatic and menacing on the football field, one of the best collections of defensive backs ever assembled on one team.
In their heyday, the Super Bowl-winning season of 2013, Kam Chancellor called them “a brotherhood.” Coach Pete Carroll noted how they “understand the power of being connected.”
But the perception of this unit has gone from heartwarming to heartbreaking. The sordid, disturbing details of Richard Sherman’s arrest this week added another sad chapter to what had once been an uplifting tale of bonding, friendship, overcoming adversity and proving doubters wrong.
Now you just hope they can find their way to a better place in their lives. And that the people they impacted can find peace in theirs.
Of the four founding members of the Legion of Boom — Sherman, Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Brandon Browner — three have had personal and legal issues of varying severity that have put others in distress or danger.
The exception is Chancellor, who has been an exemplary citizen of our region and remains connected with the Seahawks, for whom he was a tone-setting enforcer from his strong-safety position. Chancellor’s thunderous hit on Denver’s Demaryius Thomas early in the Super Bowl is widely regarded as the harbinger of Seattle’s eventual romp to victory.
But there is still a wistfulness to Chancellor’s career as well, because of its premature end. In the same 2017 game at Arizona that would also be the Seattle finale for Sherman, who tore an Achilles’ tendon and left as a free agent for San Francisco in the offseason, Chancellor suffered a severe neck injury.
Told by doctors that he faced paralysis if he played again, Chancellor walked away from football at age 31. One can only wonder how many impactful plays the Seahawks lost out on, and how much locker-room guidance and leadership left, when Chancellor went into his reluctant retirement.
But the questions are much more ominous with Chancellor’s Legion of Boom mates.
Browner once drew plaudits for rising to Pro Bowl cornerback status after being an undrafted player signed out by the Seahawks out of the Canadian Football League. Now he sits in San Quentin State Prison in California, a little over a year into an eight-year sentence for attempted murder and two misdemeanor counts of child cruelty.
Thomas was named first-team All-Pro three times and made seven Pro Bowls as the Seahawks’ hyper-intense, wide-roaming free safety. But his time in Seattle turned volatile with a training-camp holdout in 2018; it ended with a middle-finger salute to Carroll on the Seattle sideline as Thomas was carted off the field with a broken leg just four games into that season.
Thomas signed with Baltimore in 2019, but in his second season with the Ravens was cut for “conduct detrimental to the team,” when he fought safety Chuck Clark during a training-camp practice in late August. Thomas remains unsigned and out of football, but he made news in April 2020. That’s when Thomas’ wife, Nina, was arrested for allegedly pointing a loaded gun at him during an argument after finding him having an extramarital affair.
Then in January 2021, according to TMZ Sports, Nina Thomas was granted a restraining order against Earl after a confrontation the day after Christmas. Court documents obtained by TMZ said Nina is “scared of Earl and believe that there is a clear and present danger.” Earl Thomas denied the allegations.
Sherman locked down one side of the field in his heyday and wasn’t shy about letting opponents hear about it. He provided what might have been the defining moment of the Legion of Boom era in the waning moments of the NFC title game after the 2013 season, batting away Colin Kaepernick’s pass intended for Michael Crabtree to lock down the win.
During the postgame interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, Sherman unleashed on Crabtree.
“Well, I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman said, still exuding the adrenaline of the feat. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get!”
But all that is secondary now. Sherman pleaded not guilty Friday to five misdemeanors, including driving under the influence, endangering roadway workers, resisting arrest and domestic-violence-related counts of malicious mischief and criminal trespass. That followed a series of events Tuesday night/Wednesday morning in which he crashed into a highway construction site while impaired and then allegedly tried to force entry in his in-laws’ residence.
I’m trying to reconcile myriad emotions here as I reflect on the incident. First is overwhelming relief that no one was hurt by Sherman’s erratic actions, and anger that he put them in such danger. Driving under the influence is never acceptable and could have easily ruined the lives of innocent people.
I feel plenty of sadness that Sherman’s life has unraveled to such a degree, and empathy for his family as they deal with the consequences. I also ponder, not for the first time, the physical and emotional toll that playing in the NFL — and the abrupt ending of careers — takes on players.
Sherman said in a statement Friday, “I am deeply remorseful for my actions Tuesday night. I behaved in a manner I am not proud of. I have been dealing with some personal challenges over the last several months, but that is not an excuse for how I acted.
“The importance of mental and emotional health is extremely real and I vow to get the help I need.”
You also can’t help but wonder if CTE — chronic traumatic encephalopathy — is in play with any of these players. The more scientists study CTE, which adversely affects brain function due to repeated head injuries, the more we learn that it can lead to aggressive and erratic behavior.
It wasn’t supposed to go this way. When I envisioned the Legion of Boom in its post-playing years, it was to be a celebration of its achievements, which came against all odds. Sherman and Chancellor weren’t drafted until the fifth round. Browner wasn’t drafted at all. Thomas was considered by some to be too small to play safety.
“Legion is like a vast army,” Chancellor told reporters in January 2015, explaining the collective power of the unit and what the name itself means. “We went with Legion of Boom, and it kind of fits the description of our unit, our brotherhood of love, trust, honesty, respect. I think all those elements right there create the power in our group.”
It was all going to culminate in Chancellor, Thomas and Sherman, the heart of the Legion of Boom, coming back to Lumen Field to receive their accolades. The contentious departures of the latter two would have been long forgiven. It was not hard to envision a spot in the Ring of Honor for all of them.
Now I merely hope that the time comes when they find themselves in a happier spot, with their lives back on track. At this point, that’s all that really matters.