Boling: Sherman’s influence spans beyond sports

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMay 8, 2014 

RENTON — Because Richard Sherman already has ridden his weapons-grade confidence far beyond any reasonable expectations, it might be unwise to dismiss his next audacious goal.

To change the world.

He won’t do it because he’s an All-Pro cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks, nor merely on the strength of his newly agreed upon four-year contract extension worth a guaranteed $40 million.

Sherman plans to do it by exploiting the exposure and platform those things give him.

His chances are bolstered by the facts that he’s intelligent (proven by his Stanford degree), has a world view and sees a need he can uniquely address.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider called Sherman’s successful rise from inner-city Los Angeles and humble athletic expectations “a great American story.”

The son of a hard-working garbage man, Sherman recalls the days when his parents struggled to keep food on the table, and when he went to school wearing bedroom slippers with holes in them.

Yet on Wednesday he became the highest-paid cornerback in the National Football League. And, recently, he was listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.

President Barack Obama kidded about him at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner.

Sherman has always had a voice and a social conscience. He now has a bigger stage upon which to broadcast his message.

“It definitely gives me a broader platform to speak to the inner-city kids,” Sherman said. “Or (kids) from any walk of life who don’t feel like they have enough to aspire to.”

Sherman wants kids to understand there are more paths away from poverty, gang violence or drug problems than just pro sports or rapping.

“I want to change the discussion, the discourse,” Sherman said. “To give those kids aspirations for other things: to be doctors, to be lawyers, to be deep into the world of academia, to be in the education field, to show them success in all spheres of life.

“The more kids we influence in that regard, the more we give kids inspiration to do more than just sports. The more we’ll see kids thriving in the inner city and wanting more and doing more, hopefully that means a better world for us.”

Even while still funded by his modest rookie contract, Sherman and his brother, Branton, operated the “Blanket Coverage” program, which raises money to help disadvantaged kids get educational tools to help level the field in the classroom.

“This is something we thought about since we were children,” Branton Sherman said Wednesday. “The opportunity has presented itself, and we’re going to do our best to make sure we utilize it the best way possible and make sure our message is heard and it continues to inspire the youth.”

Branton Sherman laughed when asked if he thought big money would change his brother.

“That fifth-round (draft snub in 2011) is going to continue to be a chip on his shoulder,” Branton said. “Or, as I like to tell people, it’s not just a chip, it’s a whole platter of nachos.”

Yes, Richard Sherman can name each of the 23 cornerbacks drafted before him, and he can cite every slight printed about him on draft scouting reports. (And he did exactly that during his press conference.)

Both the charitable instincts and the work ethic are products of his parents’ influence. Sherman was asked if, in light of his own sudden wealth, his father might give up work on the garbage truck.

Sherman said his father had committed to working all the way up to retirement and won’t change his mind on that “because that’s the kind of guy he is.”

He said it in a way that leads one to believe that if Sherman ever started coasting, his father would offer a very unsubtle attitude adjustment.

Sherman’s signing was the latest reward for the Legion of Bucks, as safety Earl Thomas last week was made the highest-paid safety in the game.

Like Sherman, Thomas is another who earned a huge contract because he is driven by motivations deeper than the wealth.

It is doubtful that anybody in the league plays with more joy than Sherman; every game, every practice, every snap.

He may be dancing or chattering with secondary-mates or challenging receivers. But just as often, he’s sprinting full speed across the field to congratulate some rookie on the practice squad for making a nice play.

Yes, he makes a nice story, and whether he changes the world remains to be seen.

But even if it’s a few needy kids at a time, it makes him a very influential person, indeed.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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