In 2007, Richard Sherman ’10 was a budding sophomore wide receiver at Stanford under current San Francisco 49ers’ head coach Jim Harbaugh. In 2014, as a member of the Seattle Seahawks, he has solidified his status as the best cornerback in the NFL under Pete Carroll.
In both years — 2007 and 2014 — Sherman made a crucial play in the final minutes to determine the winner of a classic matchup in the ongoing Harbaugh-Carroll saga.
In the “Biggest Upset Ever” against USC, Sherman hauled in a catch in traffic on fourth-and-20 from Stanford quarterback Tavita Pritchard ’09 to preserve the Cardinal’s game-winning touchdown drive, resulting in a 24-23 win over Carroll’s Trojans.
Six and a half years later, Sherman, now a defensive star, tipped a pass from San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kapernick in the corner of the Seattle end zone where it was subsequently intercepted by Seahawks’ linebacker Malcolm Smith. The Seahawks were then able to run out the clock with a 23-17 lead and punch their ticket to the Superbowl.
As incredible as Sherman’s effort was on the last meaningful play of the NFC championship game, it was the last thing anyone wanted to discuss following the game.
Richard Sherman the trash talker just has a way of dwarfing Richard Sherman the player.
In a post-game interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, Sherman — still full of adrenaline from an extremely emotional contest — proceeded to ignore Andrews’ question about his game-winning play and instead berated San Francisco receiver Michael Crabtree (the intended receiver of Kaepernick’s final pass) for “disrespecting him.” Sherman took the time to proclaim that he is, hands down, “the best corner in the league.”
Sherman’s now-famous interview immediately exploded on social media, with some fans calling him a thug.
In response to these comments, Sherman penned an essay for Sports Illustrated, to which he is a regular contributor, titled “To Those Who Would Call Me a Thug.”
Sherman used the platform to put his actions into context, stating, “It was loud. It was in the moment, and it was just a small part of the person I am.”
Sherman went on to emphasize the positive impact he has had on impoverished communities through his foundation and the contrast between the man he is off the field and the player he is between the lines.
Nevertheless, Sherman officially sealed his status as one of the most polarizing figures in professional sports and, though it may be forgotten in the uproar, as arguably the most successful Stanford alumnus in the NFL not named Andrew Luck ’12.
With the Seahawks playing in the Super Bowl in two weeks and many more opportunities for media members to place a microphone in front of his face, one can only imagine what the Seattle’s “All-Pro Stanford graduate” has in store for us all.
While Sherman’s comments shifted all of the attention away from the cornerback’s excellent play in the NFC Championship, a career day for Seahawks’ receiver Doug Baldwin ’11 was also forgotten in the Sherman-induced media hailstorm.
Following his strong showing against the New Orleans Saints in the Divisional Round, Baldwin finished Sunday’s contest with six catches for 106 yards to lead all Seattle receivers by a wide margin.
The Seahawks will take on the Denver Broncos in Superbowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., on Feb. 2.
Contact Vihan Lakshman at vihan ‘at’ stanford.edu.