Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman speaks with the media Sunday night. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press)
Jersey City, N.J. — Will the real Richard Sherman please stand up.
“I’m just a guy trying to be the best,” said Sherman, the controversial Seattle cornerback after the Seahawks arrived in New Jersey on Sunday night. “A guy that wants to help his team win and is a fiery competitor who goes out there and puts his life into his work and puts his everything and his passion into his work. A guy that’s come from humble beginnings and came from a place not a lot people make it out of.
“I’m just trying to affect the world in a positive way.”
You can play the Jekyll and Hyde card here if you want. You can run the video from his postgame rant after the Seahawks beat the 49ers to win the NFC championship. You can go back and pick out all the cocky “I am the greatest” quotes he’s said over the years. You can talk to all the receivers he’s both physically and verbally taunted.
But if you let that fiery competitive side define him, if you use that to stereotype him, you are selling him short — way short. Aside from being one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL — he has become the prototype big-bodied shutdown corner — Sherman has displayed a depth of intelligence, a keen awareness of where he’s come from, where he is, the magnitude of this moment in his life and the ways in which he can use all this attention to foster some good.
He was asked Sunday about the fallout from his post-NFC title game rant.
“I still enjoy that because you’re learning, constantly learning and constantly growing as a person,” he said. “You’re constantly figuring out how the world works, how you can affect the world and how your words affect kids.
“I really want to affect kids and influence and inspire kids to really reach their full potential and live their life goals and go out there and make the world a better place. So if I can do that on this stage, it’s a great blessing.”
Last week he commenced a dialogue on being called a thug. He argued that the word “thug” has become, in a lot of ways, a more politically acceptable version of the n-word, and that for many it had the same connotation. He will not abide being called a thug and was more than happy to instigate the debate on that topic.
“I think it did have some effect on opening up the channels of communication and conversation and dialogue,” Sherman said. “I think I had some impact on it, and I want to have a positive impact. I want people to understand that everybody should be judged by their character and who they are as a person and not by the color of their skin.
“I think that’s something we’ve worked to get past as a nation, as a country and we’re continuing to work on it. It’s healthy. Everything that happened, all the people who sent the messages, who tweeted what they tweeted, it ends up turning around to be a positive because it opens back up the discussion and people begin to get more educated. Anytime you get more knowledge, you’re more powerful as a person.”
What he regrets about his rant and all the subsequent media attention is that it overshadowed the accomplishments of both himself — his pass breakup that sealed the win — and his team.
“I think in some people’s eyes, the comments overshadow the play because that’s what they were focusing on,” he said. “But some people actually focused on the game and they noticed the play and understood what kind of play it was.”
After effectively shutting down 49ers receiver Michael Crabtree, a receiver Sherman called mediocre, his Super Bowl challenge will be Broncos receiver Demaryius Thomas — a receiver he holds in much higher esteem.
“I definitely think he’s in the top five,” Sherman said. “He’s put together a heck of a year and done everything in his power to put himself in that conversation. He’s made the big catches. He’s made a lot of runs after the catch and turned small plays into huge plays. I think that he’s a great receiver, and he’s a great competitor.
“It’s going to be a fun matchup between both of us, because we’re both intense competitors and good friends.”
The week still is young and he has five more days to address the media and answer questions, but it looks as we are going to get the toned-down, reverent and reflective Richard Sherman.
“You can’t say crazy stuff on a regular basis, so I don’t think being at the Super Bowl makes it any different,” he said. “It’ll just be a huge stage that you made a mistake on instead of a smaller stage. In the NFL with social media and everything, all the technology nowadays, anytime you say anything it’s going to spread quick.
“We just have to continue to do what we’ve been doing. We have to continue to work hard, we have to continue to prepare, continue to watch film and not be distracted by the elements, not be distracted by the stage and the media and everything else that takes away from your normal routine as a football player.”
Come Sunday, though, it’s a safe bet Sherman will unleash his loud and proud, rash and brash persona. Seahawks nation and the Legion of Boom are counting on that.