SANTA CLARA, Calif. (KRON) — March 7, 2018: Richard Sherman was released by the Seattle Seahawks.
Less than two years later, the 31-year-old is leading the best defense in the NFL with the San Francisco 49ers and is on his way to his third Super Bowl in nine NFL seasons.
Seattle selected Sherman in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft. The Compton native was the 25th cornerback drafted and 154th overall.
Injuries really started to take a toll on him in his fifth season with the Seahawks. He was battling and playing with a sprained MCL in his right knee the entire second half of the 2016-17 season.
At the start of the following season, he injured his Achilles but continued to play. In the following weeks, he left a Week 10 game after rupturing his Achilles and was ruled out for the rest of the season.
Rumors began to spread that Sherm wouldn’t return to the Seahawks for the 2018 season, and that became official when he was released by the organization on March 9, 2018.
The following day, Sherman agreed to a three-year, $39 million contract with the Niners, a deal he negotiated himself.
A move that would change his life, but wasn’t favored by many. Critics felt he was negotiating a bad deal because he didn’t have an agent.
Also, coming off a major injury like a ruptured Achilles is more than just hard to overcome — it’s not likely. That just doesn’t happen for many athletes playing any professional sport.
But as Sherman has proved, it’s difficult but not impossible.
Fast-forward to the present day, he is a major factor as to why the 49ers are NFC Champions and heading to Super Bowl LIV.
Following his pick off Aaron Rodgers to seal the team’s NFC Championship win over the Packers, emotions were in the air for many, but especially Sherman.
While his teammates celebrated the victory, the cornerback took a moment to squat down with his head in his hat and take it all in. Nine seasons of continuously proving doubters wrong, overcoming obstacles and staying focused jumbled into about 10 seconds.
And for anyone who actually understands the game of football, knows why that moment was so special for Sherman. Truly a class act that doesn’t get the credit he deserves.
In a press conference following the NFC title game, Sherman expressed why the win was so emotional for him.
“It’s a long road, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. There’s a lot of work away from the cameras,” Sherman said. “You guys see the games, you don’t see the hours and hours of work, study, treatment, pain, the nights at home you don’t get to spend with your kids because you’re just trying to get your knee back or your hamstring back.”
“People don’t understand the sacrifice that goes into being great in this game. You give up your body, you give up your time, you give up your health, your mind. That’s why it’s a little emotional. You get to appreciate it a little more,” he continued.
This is the same man who just six years prior, was in the same position with a different team. And a video of him after that win also went viral, but for other reasons.
For those who remember, he had just beaten the 49ers with a Seahawks jersey on and was remembered for his post-game interview with Erin Andrews.
That game was a lot of back-and-forth between Sherm and then-49er Michael Crabtree. After Sherman deflected a pass by Colin Kaepernick intended for Crabtree that ultimately ended that NFC Championship game, you already know 25-year-old Sherman was going to rub it in.
He mocked both Crabtree and Kaepernick after the play and was later fined nearly $8,000 for the taunting.
But what had people talking was the interview.
“I’m the best corner in the game. When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get,” Sherman told Andrews following the 23-17 win over San Francisco. “Don’t you ever talk about me. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or you know I’m gonna shut it for your real quick. L.O.B.!”
So what does a game played 5+ years ago have anything to do with present-day?
Well, after his time with the Seahawks and especially after that interview, the media and overall public labeled Sherman a “thug” and called him “ignorant” with the way he went about things.
One day after that interview, the word “thug” was used on TV more than 600 times and was all over social media.
Sherman took the time to address the media regarding the word.
“The only reason it bothers me is because it seems like it’s the accepted way of calling someone the n-word nowadays. It’s like everyone else says the n-word and then they say thug and they’re like OK that’s fine,” he said. “And that’s where it kind of takes me back and it’s kind of disappointing because what’s the definition of a thug really? Can a guy on a football field just talking to people — maybe I’m talking loudly and talking like I’m not supposed to. But there was a hockey game, they didn’t even play hockey! They just threw the puck aside and started fighting.”
The room filled with laughter as he continued.
“I saw that and said ‘Aw man and I’m the thug? What’s going on?’” he said.
I think people often forget that this man graduated 2nd in his high school class and had a 4.2 GPA before going on to Stanford.
But things haven’t really changed much with his transition to the Bay. He’s still to this day being criticized for something different every week.
And that’s what is most fascinating about his journey. Richard Sherman has remained the same since day one, the only thing that’s beginning to change is how people perceive him.
He’s always been a smart guy. He’s always been a vocal guy. But being vocal doesn’t make you any less smart and it definitely doesn’t make you a thug.
I mean it takes more than skill to be an elite CB in the league and it’s clear that Sherman uses both his intelligence and talent to shine on the field.
Richard Sherman is a competitor. It’s clear he uses the hate and doubt as motivation to strive for greatness. Jimmy Garoppolo agreed and said that “everyone has different ways to get motivated.”
Jimmy G has received criticism all season but says he deals with it in a much quieter way than his teammate Sherman.
The two captains are now focused on the big game against the Kansas City Chiefs in Miami.
But who would’ve thought the same man that ended San Francisco’s dreams in 2014 would be on his way to Super Bowl LIV sporting Red and Gold years later?
Whether you love him or hate him, Richard Sherman is going to keep it real and never shy away from speaking his truth. People have kind of just learned to understand his story and accept him for who he is.
Defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who worked with Sherman in both of their first years in Seattle, said the cornerback is “much wiser” and “much better with his words” since that 2011 year. Now both in the Bay, Saleh also added that Sherman is a tremendously strong leader with the 49ers.
Saleh also said the criticism fuels Sherman and inspires him to continuously do and be better.
“He’s a competitor. His whole life he’s been told that he can’t and he’s always trying to prove that he can, that’s him,” Saleh said. “He’s always got that chip on his shoulder. You always have to have a why as a human being and he’s always got a why for why he needs to be better than he is today. That’s what makes him special.”