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Richard Sherman’s postgame interview had all the makings of a classic World Wrestling Federation promo. It even got the "WWF Interactive Interview treatment," complete with "Mean" Gene Okerlund.
There were the self-aggrandizing statements (“I’m the best corner in the game!”), the showing of contempt for his opponent (“When you try me with a sorry receiver like [Michael] Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get.”) And don't forget the cautionary parting shot (“Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you really quick!”)
In a guest column for the Monday Morning QB with Peter King on SI.com, Sherman wrote that the postgame interview “was just a small part of the person I am.”
So who is Richard Sherman? And why is he so angry?
Sherman is the best cornerback in the NFL today. And he isn’t really angry. He’s just hyper-motivated.
For his 2012 Yahoo! profile piece on Sherman, Michael Silver wrote that Sherman “plays football with a Space Needle-sized chip on his shoulder, and he’s upset that his excellence isn’t more celebrated.”
The Sherman celebration officially commenced here in 2014. Sherman is a two-time NFL first-team All-Pro, and his Seattle Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl; but what’s even more spectacular than his NFC Championship-winning play, or his postgame outburst, is how Sherman made it here in the first place.
Since 2011, no one has more interceptions than Sherman, who led the NFL with eight in 2013.
Unlike fellow 2013 All-Pro cornerbacks Patrick Peterson, Joe Haden and Aqib Talib—all first-round picks in their respective draft years—Sherman was a fifth-round selection in the 2011 NFL Draft.
Scouts, Inc., assigned him a 30 on its grading scale and labeled him a borderline draft prospect with the following assessment of his cornerback-specific attributes:
“Below Average” Cover Skills
“Does not appear to have any quick-twitched explosiveness. Struggles when having to make sudden change of direction laterally. . . Closing burst is adequate. Does not possess the extra gear to recover when caught in trail position."
“Average” Ball Skills
“Can come down with routine interceptions but certainly not an elite playmaker at this point.”
Over at NFL.com, the experts viewed Sherman as “a size prospect” with “average ball skills” who possesses the potential to be “a contributing backup corner for a press-heavy team.”
So how did Sherman evolve from fringe prospect to shutdown corner in just three seasons? He’s only begun to tap into his enormous potential in the defensive backfield.
In high school, Sherman played WR/DB and was ranked a three-star prospect. He was a standout athlete who graduated second in his class at Dominguez High School in Compton, Calif.
Fun fact: the high school wide receiver rankings by Scout.com in 2006 rated Sherman ahead of Michael Crabtree and future Philadelphia Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin. (Sherman was No. 61, Maclin No. 70, and Crabtree was an unranked two-star prospect.)
The recruiting service Rivals.com ranked Sherman No. 65 among its “Athlete” prospects in 2006, behind players such as Crabtree (No. 16) and current Baltimore Ravens CB Jimmy Smith (No. 57).
Sherman drew interest from several Division I programs and received scholarship offers from Colorado, Mississippi State, Nevada and UCLA before committing to play wide receiver at Stanford. He excelled at wideout in his first two seasons in Palo Alto, but after suffering a season-ending knee injury his junior year, he reinvented himself as a defensive back for the Cardinal. He locked down the starting left cornerback job and recorded six interceptions, two forced fumbles and 17 pass breakups in his final two seasons.
Check out the tape on Sherman from Stanford:
Sherman received an invite to the NFL Combine, where he performed well. He ran the 40-Yard Dash in 4.56 seconds, solid for a DB prospect of his size (he checked in at 6’3” and 195 pounds). He displayed serious lower-body explosiveness by finishing among the top five cornerbacks in the Vertical Jump (38 inches) and top 10 in the Broad Jump (125 inches). (Watch video highlights of Sherman's Combine workout.)
But on the first two days of the draft, the names being called were those same defensive backs and athletes who preceded Sherman in the high school rankings—Jimmy Smith, Shareece Wright and Chimdi Chekwa, to name a few.
The Seattle Seahawks selected Sherman with the 154th pick of the draft.
Sherman was the 34th defensive back taken. A staggering 22 cornerbacks were selected ahead of him.
Michael Silver wrote about Sherman's draft experience:
“Sherman simmered as cornerbacks he considered inferior got taken off the board before him. . . however, his focus never wavered; he sat on a couch watching the TV screen more intently than Mel Kiper Jr., determined to soak in the magnitude of the slight and, ultimately, make the world pay.”
Sherman said, “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."
Through the 2013 season, the 22 cornerbacks drafted ahead of Sherman combined for 36 career interceptions.
The ball-hawking Sherman has 20 by himself.
Take away Patrick Peterson’s 12 INTs, and that leaves Sherman four picks short of the combined total of the 24 interceptions made by DBs selected ahead of him.
Although you may not hear Sherman's name mentioned much on Sundays—and you thought QBs were refusing to throw his way before his NFC Championship game-winning interception play—it's safe to say that Sherman is here to stay. And like the Nature Boy Ric Flair used to say: “If you don’t like it, you better learn to love it because it’s the best thing going today."