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Richard Sherman is the most interesting person in football

By Ryan Wilson | CBSSports.com


Only 25, Richard Sherman is already one of the league's most dynamic players. (USATSI)
What originally started as a midseason look at the NFL's most interesting player has expanded beyond that because, well, Richard Sherman's story isn't just about the last two months. It goes back to his his youth in Compton, Calif., his days at Stanford, when he was a wide receiver before he was a cornerback. It goes back to him falling to the fifth round of the 2011 draft and how that motivated him to prove everyone wrong. And it continues to this day as Sherman has made himself into one of the league's best cornerbacks.

Below: A brief timeline of events that led Sherman to this point.

* Sherman's parents preached the importance of hard work and education at an early age. His father rose at 4 a.m. every morning to drive a garbage truck. His mother worked with mentally disabled children.

"It got to the point where I'd bring home a B in middle school, even in a tough class, and get stern looks, like, That is not acceptable," Sherman wrote this summer for TheMMQB.com. "But our parents always kept us involved in sports, kept us busy. In such a bad neighborhood, they always wanted us doing something constructive."

* As a senior at Dominguez High School, Sherman had 28 receptions for 859 yards and 14 touchdowns, as well as 1019 all-purpose yards. He also had a 3.9 GPA.

Here's how an 18-year-old Sherman described his game coming out of high school: "I'm good at reacting to the ball, making plays and making people miss me in the open field," he said, via Scout.com. "I am quick and I get to the ball when it is in the air. I have great jumping ability and football really comes easy for me.

"On defense, I can read the receivers well and jump on their routes."I want to get my strength up more, gain some more weight and get a little quicker for this upcoming season."

* Sherman arrived at Stanford as a wide receiver. He led the team in receptions in 2007 and 2008 but after two seasons he asked to move to cornerback. The request was initially denied by then-offensive coordinator David Shaw (who would later become head coach after Jim Harbaugh left for the 49ers). A year later, Sherman tried again with this pitch:

"At receiver, you're limited," he said, according the San Jose Mercury News. If the quarterback has a bad game, you're having a bad game," he explained. "But at cornerback, no matter what's going on, if your man doesn't catch the ball, you're having a pretty good day. You control your own destiny."

Sherman intercepts vs. Cal during a game on Nov. 10, 2010. (USATSI)
* That's exactly what happened. Sherman excelled at cornerback, where he started 20 games, helped rebuild a once-floundering program in the process, and he was ready to conquer his next challenge: The NFL. But two years worth of college tape and five months of predraft workouts weren't enough to convince 32 NFL teams that Sherman was anything more than a backup.

For laughs, here's part of Sherman's CBSSports.com scouting report:

"Questionable speed overall. Has a high backpedal and loses a step in his transition, allowing receivers to separate when he misjudges their route, leading to being beaten over the top. Is especially susceptible to smaller, quicker receivers."

And here's another one from NFL.com:

"...However, Sherman does not possess the natural coverage instincts, fluidity or burst to be considered a future starter. ... Has average ball skills but some upside as a playmaker. Tough against the run but still developing from a technical standpoint. Sherman is a Day 3 prospect."

* Sherman lasted until the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft -- the 154th pick -- when the Seahawks finally selected him.

"I celebrated [when I was drafted] because my family was happy and the dream had been realized," Sherman told Yahoo.com's Mike Silver in December 2012. "I wasn't gonna ruin that moment for my family. But in the back of my mind, I was livid.

"Some of those guys who got drafted [ahead of me], I was like, 'Wow, this is ridiculous.' I thought, 'What's the point of playing good ball if it doesn't matter?' By the time the fifth round rolled around, the damage was done. I was like, 'When I get to the NFL, I'm gonna destroy the league, as soon as they give me the chance.' And that's what I've been doing ever since."

Sherman is motivated by slights -- perceived or otherwise. (USATSI)
* In February 2013, Sherman was still holding that draft-day grudge when he told NFL AM “Nothing is going to change the fact that I was drafted 154, fifth round, 23rd pick. Nothing's going to change that. Five rounds of teams just passed, passed, passed, passed. I know every single one of them. I know every DB. I know everyone who went ahead of me.”

Twenty-seven defensive backs were taken before Sherman that year. You can easily make the argument that Sherman is better than every last one of them.

* Despite the promises of league-wide retribution, Sherman began his career as a backup. Through the first seven games of the 2011 season, he had 10 tackles, no passes defended and no interceptions. But he made his first start in Week 8 against the Bengals. Sherman suffered a concussion early in the game, a development he hid it from coaches and team doctors. It's a decision he does not regret.

"The concussion blurred my vision and I played the next two quarters half-blind, but there was no way I was coming off the field with so much at stake. It paid off: Just as my head was clearing, Andy Dalton lobbed one up to rookie A.J. Green and I came down with my first career interception. The Legion of Boom was born," Sherman wrote for TheMMQB.com last week.

Sherman ended his rookie season with 14 passes defended and four picks.

* In 2012, he logged eight more interceptions to go with 24 passes defended. And one of those picks -- in a Week 6 win against Tom Brady and the Patriots -- spawned the "U Mad Bro" internet meme.

As Sherman tells it, Brady was talking trash during the game and in the cornerback's mind, that was unacceptable.

"I kept saying I'm going to get that next time. Every TV timeout, I went up and said it right to [Brady]: 'Please keep trying me. I'm going to take it from you,'" Sherman said after the game. "That was when they were winning. He just gave me that look and said, 'Oh, I'll see you after game.' Well, I made sure I saw him after the game."

There was also this:

The lesson: You're not going to out-talk -- or out-perform -- Richard Sherman.

* Sherman has also engaged Darrelle Revis in a war of words (140 characters at a time, naturally) about who's the better cornerback, called Jim Harbaugh a "bully," and reminded ESPN robo-contrarian Skip Bayless that "I'm better at life than you."

* So, yeah, Sherman likes to talk. A lot. And that no doubt turns off some people. But this isn't Freddie Mitchell-Bill Belichick situation.

(Quick refresher: Mitchell, a former Eagles wide receiver, was flapping his gums and the always reserved Belichick made an exception, noting: "All he does is talk. He's terrible, and you can print that. I was happy when he was in the game.")

This is one of the most talented players in the game doing what he does.

"Even when he's wrong, he's right," Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who played with Sherman at Stanford, told the Mercury News in September. "When he gets beat, it's just an opportunity to come back and win more battles."

It's a perfect description. But Sherman is also a football realist. He knows the inherent risks of playing a sport in which some of the planet's best-conditioned athletes spend three hours a week running full speed into each other.

"A NASCAR driver understands that anything can happen during a race; his car could flip at 200 miles per hour," Sherman wrote recently. "A boxer knows when he goes in the ring what's happening to his body. Just like them, we understand this is a dangerous game with consequences not just in the short term, but for the rest of our lives. ...

"Do I think about the consequences 30 years down the line? No more than I think about the food I'm enjoying today, which could be revealed in 30 years to cause cancer or a heart murmur or something else unpredictable. Those are the things you can't plan for, and the kind of optimism I have right now is the only way to live. And the next time I get hit in the head and I can't see straight, if I can, I'll get back up and pretend like nothing happened. Maybe I'll even get another pick in the process."

'I feel obligated to make (the inner city) a better place,' Sherman says. (USATSI)
* But Sherman is a man whose life is about more than football. One of his biggest off-field passions: Stressing the importance of education to inner-city kids, as well as providing material and supplies to schools in need. A softball game organized by his charity, Blanket Coverage, raised $40,000 over the summer.

"I feel obligated to make (the inner city) a better place," Sherman told the Mercury News. "We shouldn't ever leave a kid behind. But it's hard for them to take the SATs when the textbooks they're using were made in 2000. How can they compete?"

 
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