Words // Tim Dunn
“Don’t you ever talk about me.”
Pedestrian. Soft spoken. Unintelligent.
Many words are used to describe Richard Sherman, but these are not three of them. In fact, in just his third year in the league, Sherman has made a name for himself as an outstanding performer with a bold and intelligent personality.
If you didn’t know him before last year’s NFC Championship game, you did after. In the closing seconds of the 4th quarter, with the 49ers in the red zone and looking for the game-winning score, Sherman made an acrobatic, leaping play to deflect a pass and send Seattle to the big game. It was a clutch, season-saving play by the self-proclaimed best corner in the league. But it wasn’t the play that launched Sherman beyond the realm of football fans and into the national consciousness. It was what happened just minutes afterwards.
A triumphant Sherman joined Fox’s Erin Andrews for a post-game interview and gave one of the greatest, and now infamous, exchanges in the history of sports.
It was a loud, in-your-face interview, delivered with such intensity and emotion that it caught everyone watching off guard. A fired-up Sherman claimed his place at the top. It set the Twittersphere on fire. Sports commentators everywhere were adding their two cents — even President Obama weighed in. The reactions were all over the board. People called Sherman a thug, directed racial slurs at him, and suggested that maybe he needed a lesson in humility and respect. The irony though, is that the majority of these people were the very same people that had no clue who Richard Sherman was before that interview.
Those who know him best — his teammates, his coaches, and the fans in Seattle — never wavered in their support. They knew that the popular interpretation of the interview wasn’t an accurate representation of who Richard Sherman really is. They know what kind of teammate he is and what type of citizen he is. What that interview truly represented was a man who has faced adversity at every step of his life, only to rise up and conquer it.
Sherman exudes bravado, but his bravado isn’t negative — it’s earned. It’s bravado he’s built through hard work and determination. It’s the bravado of a man who played wide receiver his first two collegiate seasons, excelled at it, and then switched to cornerback because he wanted a bigger challenge. It’s the bravado of a man who was drafted in the 5th round after 23 other cornerbacks, and who proceeded to become better than every single one of them. That’s bravado that’s warranted. That’s the bravado of a man who is the leader of the most feared defense in professional football, and the bravado of a man who doesn’t pretend to be something he’s not.
Richard Sherman knows who he is and who he isn’t. He knows what people say about him, and he also knows the people doing the talking haven’t led the league in interceptions, passes defensed, or lowest QB rating when targeted the past three years. So, say what you want about Richard Sherman because as he once said on Twitter, “lions don’t concern themselves with the opinions of sheep.”