If you haven’t heard the name Richard Sherman, maybe it’s time you read some headlines once in a while. The talented Seattle Seahawks cornerback has emerged as one of the most popular yet polarizing figures in the game of football thanks in large part to his postgame rant after the NFC Championship game. In case you need a refresher, Sherman yelled on camera, criticizing 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree and proclaiming himself the best cornerback in the game. Within minutes, Sherman was trending on Twitter, and he immediately became a national sensation.

Sherman’s actions have received much criticism, both online and in the media, and rightfully so. His behavior showed poor sportsmanship and took away from what truly should have mattered — his teammates and the team victory. Instead, Sherman took the spotlight to belittle an opposing player who he had just trumped on national television, causing media and fans across the nation to focus more so on his antics rather than the Seahawks advancing to the Super Bowl.

But the way in which many have responded to Sherman is troubling and brings up an interesting and disturbing discussion. Many people, particularly online, resorted to calling Sherman a “thug,” a word with an extremely negative connotation. Is Sherman a loudmouth? Sure. Can he be described as cocky and at times arrogant? I wouldn’t argue against it. However, calling Sherman a thug and making him a villain out of a mishandled interview is certainly now way to him.

Sherman came from the poor neighborhood of Compton, worked hard in high school to graduate as the Salutatorian with a 4.2 GPA and received a scholarship to play football at Stanford. Once at Stanford, Sherman continued to excel, graduating with a 3.9 GPA and a degree in Communication while balancing football and a spot in the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity. He is also working towards a Master’s degree from Stanford.

In addition to his academic excellence, Sherman is a generous and philanthropic man, often visiting underprivileged schools and providing students and athletes with the necessary resources that are often taken for granted in the classroom and on the field. Sherman even went as far as signing a contract with students, stipulating that if they were good students and members of the community, he would continue to provide them with classroom materials.

A Stanford-educated man who has no criminal history and has shown a knack for helping children and the underprivileged certainly does not sound like a thug to me. Whether it is racism or even poor judgment and word choice on the behalf of critics, a thug is no way to describe Richard Sherman.

His antics are over the top at times, but that, along with his talent on the field are what make him such a popular player. Sherman is the only defensive player in the top-10 of NFL jersey sales, and those numbers have skyrocketed in the past month.

As far as his claim to be the best cornerback in the game — I’d have to agree with Sherman. The last two years he has been named All-Pro first team, registering eight interceptions in each season, a league high this year. In only three seasons of play, Sherman has registered 20 career interceptions. Not bad for a player who switched from wide receiver to cornerback in his final year at Stanford.

A fifth round pick in the NFL draft by Seattle, Sherman has excelled in life every step of the way in the face of tremendous opposition. If you’ve ever heard him speak, aside from the notorious NFC Championship Game interview, you’d know Sherman is an intelligent and well-spoken man.

Sherman’s actions have certainly garnered him more haters, but with that come more and more fans as well. When examining Sherman for the man he is on and off the field, and not only judging him on the one instance of poor behavior, it is hard to justify the hate. I am surprised to admit to myself that I am a Richard Sherman fan, something I never thought I’d say.

You can be sure he’ll be in the spotlight come Sunday and all eyes will be on him and his actions during and after the game. Sherman is no villain, just a fiery competitor. Best of luck to you, Richard, this Super Bowl Sunday.


A version of this article appeared on page 10 of January 29, 2013’s print edition of The Daily Nexus.

Art by Amy Chase of The Daily Nexus.