NEWARK — There is no pretense when it comes to Richard Sherman. That much is clear.
His introduction to much of the world, for better or for worse, was his postgame howling after the NFC Championship game, after he knocked the potential game-winning touchdown away from San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree, sealing the Seahawks’ trip to the Super Bowl.
For Patriots fans, his introduction came about 15 months ago, after New England lost in Seattle, 24-23, and Sherman tweeted a picture of himself with Tom Brady with the caption, “U mad bro?”
According to Sherman, Brady had talked a little smack during the game and Sherman was eager to give it right back.
Does he like to talk? Sure.
As he showed Tuesday at the annual Super Bowl spectacle known as Media Day, Sherman can talk a lot, and on just about any topic, from Muhammad Ali (a personal hero), to going to strip clubs (he’s never been to one, and he believes women shouldn’t limit themselves), to being a role model (he embraces the chance to be one, particularly for kids growing up in inner-city circumstances like he did).
But in the days that have followed his outburst, those who have bothered to pay attention have seen a man who was contrite and knows he took attention away from his team — the most central element in successful football — and its success.
He is also a man who makes no apologies for who he is, and wants you to do the same.
“The last week hasn’t been too tough with people trying to dissect my life because I don’t have anything to hide,” Sherman said to the dozens of reporters, media types, and not-quite-media types pressed against his stall on the floor of the Prudential Center. “I don’t have any bad things in my past that I’m like, ‘Oh man, they’re going to find that out.’
“I think I’ve lived my life and tried to be a good Samaritan, good human being, help as many kids and people as I can in my time with the means that I have to help them. And the more people look, the more they’ll see that, that I’ve been trying to do what I can to help this world. And the more people see that, I think the less they’ll judge off the 20 seconds of rant or whatever they call it.”
And if you did that Tuesday, if you braved the crush of cameras and the crowd to get close to him, or if you stood under the speaker a few yards away, or if you watched on NFL Network, you would have heard that Sherman is a good human being, a good teammate, someone who is capable of praising opponents.
“We’re a team, man. I’m one of 11 out there on the defensive side and I’m one of 22 when the offense is out there, I’m one of 53 on our team,” Sherman said. “I think that we don’t get here without all 53 of us, without all of us making an impact. Without Earl Thomas, without Marshawn Lynch, without James Carpenter, without Max Unger, without Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Jermaine Kearse, without Brandon Mebane, without big Red Bryant, you’ve got all these guys that have had a tremendous impact.
“In any given game you can look at those guys as player of the game. It’s a long season and I’m just part of the team. I’m a guy that wants to help this team win as much as possible.
“You play for your teammates and those are your family members and the guys you love. That’s what it’s about.”
The 25-year-old Sherman entered Stanford as a receiver but, in just five years, has worked himself into one of the elite cornerbacks in the NFL.
Sherman grew up in the Compton and Watts areas of Los Angeles County, neighborhoods known far more for poverty and violence than producing Stanford graduates.
But Kevin and Beverly Sherman raised their three children — Richard is the middle child — with a firm hand, stressing education and doing everything they could to make sure their children were not enticed by the gang life that was prevalent around them.
“My mom and my dad were an incredible influence on me; their work ethic, their passion, their ability to look past the negativity and all the situations we were in,” Sherman said.
“We lived in Watts, we lived in Compton, they aren’t the best neighborhoods, but our family never made us feel that way. They made us feel like we were in a regular neighborhood and that’s how life should be lived.
“They worked hard, they didn’t complain about anything, they made sure we were taken care of, and at the end of the day that’s really all you can expect from your parents. That’s all you can ask for.
“They did more than a lot of parents ever did for their kids and every day I just want to try to repay them as much as I can for giving me a chance, giving me a chance to do things like this, to be in front of these people and be in this atmosphere and everything I do is a testament to them and their hard work.”
Sherman is the furthest thing there could be from a thug, the entirely false term many pinned on him immediately after his televised outburst.
He’s loud, he’s honest, and, like it or not, he is one of the best at his position playing right now.
He knows some people will be rooting for him to fail on Sunday, for Denver’s Demaryius Thomas to beat him for a touchdown or two. If that’s the type of person you are, well, that’s OK with Sherman.
“I like people being who they are,” he said. “If wearing dreadlocks is who you are, being bald or having a clean cut is who you are, just be who you have and impact the world in a positive way.
“Just, you know, be a good person. That’s what it really comes down to.”