Forty-eight words, 28 seconds and one epic rant on national television in the moments following the NFC Championship Game guaranteed that Richard Sherman would be among the most sought-after figures at Super Bowl XLVIII Media Day on Tuesday afternoon at the Prudential Center.
As the Seattle Seahawks cornerback emerged from the bowels of the arena at 12:45 p.m, a crush of cameras met his every step as three security guards tried, mostly in vain, to give him room to get to his makeshift podium. The arena was buzzing upon Sherman’s entrance and as the abundance of cameras jockeyed for position to get a shot of the man whose life has been dissected ad nauseum for the last week, the NFL leader in interceptions this season owned the moment.
Sherman sat down, pulled out his own digital camera and had the assembled media and photographers to his right, left and directly in front of him pause for photos before fielding questions. It was a lighthearted moment that set the tone for a Media Day circus in which he would not be baited into saying anything that could be construed as controversial.
“The last week hasn’t been too tough with people trying to dissect my life,” Sherman said. “I don’t have anything to hide, I don’t have any bad things in my past where I’m like, ‘Oh, man. They’re gonna find that out.’ I think I live my life and try to be a Good Samaritan, a good human being and try to help as many kids as I can in my time and with the means that I have. The more people look, I’m sure the more they’ll see that.”
Sherman, who is in the third year of his four-year, $2.22 million rookie contract, has 20 interceptions in three years, including eight in each of the last two seasons. Those numbers and his stature as a leader on the most fearsome secondary in the game put him in the conversation as the best cornerback in football.
On Jan. 19, his mouth, not his play, became the story. After getting his right hand on a Colin Kaepernick pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, Malcolm Smith intercepted Sherman’s deflection, Russell Wilson took a knee three times and the Seahawks were off to the Super Bowl for the second time.
In the immediate aftermath, in front of a FOX audience, Erin Andrews asked Sherman about the biggest play of his life. His answer changed the perception, maybe irreparably with some, of the Compton, Calif. native.
“Well, I’m the best corner in the game,” Sherman said emphatically. “When you try me with a sorry receiver like Crabtree, that’s the result you gonna get. Don’t you ever talk about me.”
When Andrews asked Sherman who was talking about him, he continued, “Crabtree. Don’t you open your mouth about the best, or I’m gonna shut it for you real quick. L.O.B. (Legion of Boom)”
The week that followed included lengthy depictions of his childhood growing up in Compton, Calif., his academic accolades at Dominguez High School, the fact he graduated with a 4.2 grade-point average from Stanford and his ascension from a fifth-round pick in 2011.
“Sherm is a great guy,” Seahawks free safety and Legion of Boom mate Earl Thomas said. “There’s been a lot of criticism about him, but he’s definitely misunderstood. He’s not cocky. Everybody thinks he is, but he’s a very humble guy.”
Although no one is denying Sherman was caught up in the moment and the emotion of that NFC title game, he has apologized and tried to move on, even if the media and the nation have not quite yet.
His focus now is Sunday and the Super Bowl, which will provide a huge test on an even bigger public stage with Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning and the NFL’s top-ranked offense waiting to test L.O.B.
“Peyton Manning’s numbers speak for themselves,” Sherman said. “I think he’s one of the best in the history of the game and I think he’s broken multiple records to prove that. He’s on another level now and he’s been on another level for years. He’s gonna get his yards, he’s gonna his make plays, he’s one of the best in history.”