Richard Kevin Sherman is the best cornerback in the National Football League. Just ask him.
Born in Compton, California, on this date in 1988, he is the middle child of a father who worked in sanitation and supplemented his income as a handyman. Sherman grew up playing football, basketball and baseball, giving up the latter in middle school because the game was too slow. He attended Manuel Dominguez High School—alma mater of the NBA’s Tyson Chandler and Boston Celtic Hall of Famer Dennis Johnson—where he was a skinny “geek,” devouring Harry Potter books and attending midnight premieres, but never in costume. As a sophomore, Sherman sprouted three inches in four months and added muscle to his spindly 125-pound frame working out in the school’s spartan weight room, emerging as a star wide receiver, cornerback and kick returner on the varsity football team. As a senior, Sherman accounted for 1,030 all-purpose yards, caught 28 passes and returned three punts for touchdowns. Defensively, he recorded 45 tackles and teamed with future NFL players Kevin Burnett, Chico Rachal and Jeron Johnson to lead the Dons to the 2005 CIF South championship. Following in the footsteps of his brother Branton, who is four years older, Sherman joined the track & field team, leaping more than 50 feet to win the CIF state triple jump title while finishing third in 110 meter hurdles and sixth in long jump as a senior. “Richard never wanted to be average or good. He wanted to be great, in everything he did,” said his high school coach, Keith Donerson. After taking Advanced Placement math classes and Honors Algebra II, Sherman graduated second in his class at Dominguez, finishing with a 4.2 GPA. He was voted “male student most likely to succeed” and was heavily recruited by several major college football powers before accepting a scholarship to Stanford University.
In his first year at Stanford, Richard Sherman led the squad in receptions en route to earning the Menlo-Atherton Trophy as the team’s most outstanding freshman. The following year, he led the Cardinal in receptions and his catch on fourth-and-20 helped Stanford—a 41-point underdog—stun USC. After playing only four games as a junior due to a knee injury, Sherman received a medical redshirt. When Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh implemented a run-oriented offense, Sherman asked to move to defense—a decision that changed his future. In his final two years in Palo Alto, Sherman made 113 tackles, broke up 23 passes and recorded six interceptions. Sherman, who also earned two varsity letters as a sprinter/long-jumper in track, graduated with communications degree in 2011. At 6’3”, 195 pounds and possessing a 78-inch wingspan, Sherman had the ideal frame for a “shut-down” NFL corner—a build that scouts call “long.”
Expecting to be taken in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Richard Sherman rented a suite at the Rio Hotel in Las Vegas, inviting family and friends to join in the celebration. When that did not happen—Seattle selected him in the fifth round, with the 154th overall pick–Sherman went to training camp with a chip on his shoulder. Six weeks into his first season, he seized the starting cornerback position, finishing the year with 53 tackles, 17 defended passes and four interceptions to earn a spot on the All-Rookie Team. The following season, he started every game. In 2013, Sherman led the NFL with eight interceptions, earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl and made a crucial play late in the NFC Championship Game against San Francisco—the “Immaculate Deflection”—by tipping a pass intended for Forty-Niners receiver Michael Crabtree to teammate Malcolm Smith for a game-saving interception in the final minute. The play would later be voted by Seattle fans to be the most significant play in Seahawks history, catapulting them to the Super Bowl, where they thrashed the Denver Broncos, 43-8. After signing a four-year, $ 57 million contract extension in 2014, Sherman was named to his second Pro Bowl and won a Best Breakthrough Athlete ESPY. In 2015, he started his 74th consecutive game, made the Pro Bowl and won the Steve Largent Award as the Seahawks player best exemplifying the spirit, dedication and integrity of former Seattle wide receiver Steve Largent.
Since entering the league, Richard Sherman has the second-most interceptions  and defended passes  of any player in the NFL. Many, including Sherman himself, consider him the league’s best cornerback. He possesses an almost unfathomable ability to process and comprehend information. Twenty-four defensive backs were picked ahead of him in the 2011 Draft, and Sherman remembers all their names. He believes he can create his own reality through visualization. If he envisions it happening, it will. Mr. Sherman studied Muhammad Ali, Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin, resolving to create a similar persona for himself. The result is the avatar of the modern showboating athlete. Kris Richard, his position coach in Seattle says, “He doesn’t want to be your friend or anything like that…he wants to go out there and dominate.” Sherman has been selected to three Pro Bowls, was 2014 NFC Defensive Player of the Year and was part of the “Legion of Boom” defense that led the Seattle Seahawks to victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. Mr. Sherman’s outspoken personality, tendency for making big plays and his frequent trash-talk have made him one of the NFL’s best-known players.