Where I’m Coming From

Published on July 27, 2013 by     Sports Illustrated

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I’m a fifth-round pick from Compton. That drives me every day

My name is Richard Sherman. I’m a 25-year-old cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks. You might know me for my mouth, but I hope you get to know me this season in The MMQB for two other things: being a great football player, and being an enlightened person.

I’ve agreed to write a regular column for this new website, and I’m excited about getting a player’s view of the game out in the media. Hopefully it will give you an unfiltered look into my life, my team and the lives of all NFL players.

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The easiest way to start my first column would be to pick a new fight with someone. You might remember me for challenging Tom Brady after we beat the Patriots last fall, getting in his face after I felt he disrespected us. Or for the Twitter skirmish I got into with Darrelle Revis earlier this year, where I used facts to point out why I’m on his level as a player. Or when I demolished Skip Bayless on ESPN’s First Take. But before I throw out the first opinion—and I have quite a few of those—I want to tell you a few things about myself: where I’m from, who raised me, how I got to be where I am today. Then maybe you’ll understand why I’m so opinionated.

I was raised in a tough part of L.A. by two great parents, my mother, Beverly, and father, Kevin. I lived in Watts until I was about 14, then moved to Compton. My mom works with mentally disabled kids for the County of Los Angeles. My dad drives a trash truck.

He still leaves the house at 4 in the morning to go out on his route. So I was raised understanding the value of hard work. My parents preached academics above all else. It got to the point where I’d bring home a B in middle school, even in a tough class, and get stern looks, like, That is not acceptable. But our parents always kept us involved in sports, kept us busy. In such a bad neighborhood, they always wanted us doing something constructive.

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I knew very early—back when I was around 7—that I wanted to be a football player. I loved the game, plus one day I saw Deion Sanders get this crazy contract, seven years for $35 million. I saw that, and I saw his house on TV, and I thought, Wow, he got that much to just play the same game I’m playing for free in Pop Warner? That’s the life for me. Despite his riches, I already had something in common with Deion back then: I wasn’t the bravest guy out on the football field.

It wasn’t until my dad coached my team, when I was 11, that I learned you had to be tough to be a great football player. He put me up against a bigger kid in a tackling drill and told me, “Run him over.” All I could think of was, I don’t want to do this, but I did it. I closed my eyes, ran into the guy and did OK—or so I thought.

“Do it again!” my father shouted.

I braced up again. And the guy ran through me, again. That one hurt.

“Do it again!”

This time he ran through me ever harder. My dad came over to me, picked me up off the ground and … threw me down.

“Do it right! Be a FOOTBALL player! Do it again!”

On my fourth try I ran through that kid’s face. Knocked him down. When you’re young you have so many fears. But since that day I’ve never been afraid of anything on a football field.

In high school I played both ways—receiver and cornerback—and got recruited by lots of big schools. But I also realized that by doing well in school, I’d always be able to control my fate. Knowledge is power, and I wanted as much power over my life as possible.

There were times when my favorite subject was math. Other times it was English. I remember reading The Iliad and loving it. You wouldn’t think a football player would be into Greek poetry about the Trojan War, but my parents gave me the greatest piece of knowledge when I was young: You can learn a lot if you’re willing to go outside your comfort zone.

USC really wanted me as a corner, but I wanted to be the next great wideout. All kids want to touch the ball, right? Being able to play receiver is one of the things that pointed me to Stanford, but the school’s academic culture and prestige were also alluring. I graduated with a degree in communications, and I hope to be a TV analyst when I stop playing because I love the games within a game that make football so great to watch on Sundays.

I’m glad to be in Seattle, but I still have a problem with what happened to me at the draft in 2011. I guess teams thought I was raw as a corner? I don’t know. But I’m a big corner (6-3, 195 pounds) who had a good Orange Bowl and good Senior Bowl, and I thought I’d go in the second or third round. I was really angry that I fell to the fifth. So many teams doubted me, and that disrespect motivates me to this day. It’ll drive me for as a long as I play. Me, the 154th pick? Made no sense then—and it still doesn’t.

Disrespect. That’s also what I felt from Tom Brady when the Patriots came to Seattle last season. They were beating us in the second half, and I think it was during a TV timeout when one of our safeties, Earl Thomas, walked over to Tom. Earl had already intercepted him and said something like, “I got one pick, and I should have had two more!” And Brady responded with something like, “Who are you? Come talk to me after we win.” He was talking down to us, like we were a bunch of nobodies just there witnessing his greatness.

So after we won, 24–23, I went up to Tom, and he wouldn’t talk to me. It was just a spur-of-the-moment thing when I asked him, “You mad, bro? You mad, bro?”

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