John McGrath: Richard Sherman does media day his way

Staff writerJanuary 28, 2014 

— About 45 minutes into a Super Bowl media day session fit for a Times Square billboard – "Richard Sherman: The One and Only" – the best cornerback in football was reminded that he had yet to boast about how he is the best cornerback in football.

Did he realize, Sherman was asked, that he was disappointing those who expected him to speak in thoughts associated with explanation points?

"I think I let people down the first day I got here and didn't go all controversial," Sherman said. "I don't play to anybody else's drum. I'm not anybody's puppet. I'm going to be myself every time – good, bad or indifferent – and it's not always going to be the sound bites that you want."

Nine days after Sherman introduced himself to the world with a 30-second rant, he reintroduced himself to the world Tuesday at the Prudential Center during an hour-long performance that emphasized the sheer range of the Compton kid who became a Stanford graduate.

There were some typically insipid media day distractions. (Could he say a few words in Spanish? Participate in a duet? What was his take on Justin Bieber?) – and more substantial topics unrelated to the Seahawks (the perils of low expectations put on underprivileged children). Sherman's one-man show was simultaneously deep and silly and cheerful and poignant.

Through it all, the one constant was Sherman's natural-born ebullience. If any of the kids on the other side of the podium had a question, he made it a point to meet them and greet them with a fist bump. Television interviewers he seemed to recognize were hugged. Or maybe he didn't recognize them, and decided to hug them anyway.

Everybody else was acknowledged with a smile.

More than once, Sherman prefaced an answer by saying: "That's a great question."

A young reporter from the fifth grade, maybe sixth, asked the Stanford grad if he had any advice for indifferent students.

"Work hard," he said. "Listen to your teachers, and have some humility. If you're having trouble with a subject, don't be afraid to ask questions about things you don't understand. The more you understand, the more knowledge you have, and the more power."

Sherman, who stands 6-feet-3, has gained acclaim as an unusually tall cornerback. But he never was more a trendsetter than on this day, when he used every opportunity possible to raise the tone of media day from shallow to sublime.

Muhammad Ali's name came up.

"It's very humbling to be compared to him," Sherman said, "because of all the serious ridicule and the serious racial degradation and stigmas and stereotypes he had to fight. He almost had to go to jail because he wanted to stand up for what he believed in.

"I think his situation was a lot more serious than mine is now," continued Sherman, referring to the feedback – including ugly insults hurled at him via social media – of his sideline interview after the NFC Championship Game.

"Ali had to deal with a lot more criticism."

It's as if Sherman's life has a mission statement, and it's not to be known as the mouth that roared.

"I'm doing everything I can," he said at one point, "to help kids make the world a better place."

A few minutes later: "Everybody should be judged by their character – who they are as a person, what they do for the community – instead of how they look and their appearance... and whatever their religious beliefs are.

"They should be judged by their character and not by anything else."

And yet Sherman's tone wasn't to be confused with an Ethics 101 lecture. The inherently dumb but harmless questions were returned with short, pleasant answers. He gave and he got. (In return for singing a few lines in an impromptu duet, he was presented with the newest version of the X-box.)

"Richard," he was told, "you look like you're having the time of your life. You're getting kisses and gifts. You're loving this."

"When you put it in that order," said Sherman, "it does sound good."

When the hour was over, two handlers cleared an aisle through the thicket of cameramen and reporters. Sherman wasn't ready – he was in the middle of a thought – but it was time to go, and the NFL security guys were ready.

"I could have done this all day," he told one of them.

john.mcgrath@thenewstribune.com

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