KAHUKU, Hawaii — After back-to-back years in the Super Bowl, Richard Sherman returned to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl and discussed how he hopes to get back to the bigger game.
With the Seahawks facing an uncertain future with several big-time free agents (and this was even before running back Marshawn Lynch retired), Sherman discussed the reality and perception of the team’s future.
And a fair amount about his own future after football.
Bleacher Report: When I watch you guys play, I sometimes get the impression that you can turn the switch on and off when you feel like it. That’s both a good and bad quality for a football team. Am I wrong in that view?
Richard Sherman: I don’t think you’re wrong in that view. I don’t think we’re trying to, but sometimes we get lulled to sleep. It’s human nature. We try to battle that as much as we can, but sometimes it happens like that.
BR: Is that a dangerous quality? Because it sounds like, in the back of your mind, you have the ability to persevere through that.
RS: I don’t think so. At different times of the year you have to battle different things. You have a lot of guys out there. It’s not necessarily one guy having an off day and everybody else playing hard, you have to get everybody on the same page every game and pretty much we are, but there are a lot of times out there in the season when you have to fight through it.
BR: You have a lot of potential free agents this offseason. One of the things I’ve always maintained is that it’s harder to keep a great defense together because there are more moving parts to making a defense great. If you have a great offense, it’s usually based on the quarterback and then surrounding him with good pieces. How much do you worry about that?
RS: I don’t worry about it at all. We were No. 1 in scoring defense again. That’s four years straight. We were No. 2 in every other category and I think people sometimes confuse what we do for lack of effort. No. 2 in total defense is considered a bad year for us. That says something. We had an off year and we’re No. 2 in just about every statistical category. Again, that’s an off year. Sure, we’ve been No. 1 in just about every other year, but these are the things you deal with, the criticism. I think enough of our guys are in place for years to come and they will do their best to maintain our place and the team will sign the guys we need to sign. The front office has done a great job of building the team and will do everything to keep it together.
BR: For you, personally, you have reached some mountain tops. Back-to-back Super Bowls, one play away from winning both of them. Making the Pro Bowl. Becoming one of the top-paid players in the league. You’re also a guy who seems to play with an edge. How do you maintain that edge in the aftermath of the success?
RS: Because the success doesn’t define you. The success isn’t what gave you the edge in the first place. The failure didn’t give me the edge, either. The edge came from the slights I’ve had throughout my life, the slights I have dealt with through the entirety of my life. It wasn’t one day when somebody said something and that made me upset and now I’m over it. I’m not going to stop playing with an edge because that’s what got me here. That’s just how I play the game. I can’t play any other way.
BR: But there are a lot of people out there kissing your ass now, telling you how great you are.
RS: Like I said, you treat two impostors the same. I don’t care about people kissing my ass or telling me how great I am. I don’t really give a damn. I read the bad stuff a whole lot more than I read the good stuff. I read that because there are always going to be critics who are going to say how good you aren’t.
BR: So are you actually asking guys like me to write that you’re not playing well?
RS: (laughing) They are out there, you can add to it. You don’t have to ask, it has always been out there and it’s always going to be out there in society. Especially now, with social media giving everybody a boost. Everybody is a critic, everybody has a voice, everybody can reach you. Everybody is an expert and that’s what makes it fun.
BR: So do you read Twitter to actually look for the criticism?
RS: Sometimes Twitter, sometimes Facebook or Instagram. I just find it. It’s fun. As long as you find the fuel, it works.
BR: OK, so let’s talk a little more in the big picture. Where is Richard Sherman in 10 or 15 years? I don’t get the feeling that football is it. I get the feeling this is a stepping stone to something bigger.
RS: Football is definitely not it. I’m not 100 percent sure, but there are a few different avenues I have been exploring. A lot of people have been asking whether I would ever go into politics. I’m not sure I would.
BR: I don’t like that answer. Boo.
RS: (laughing) Sometimes you have to be somebody you’re not and I don’t know if I can do that. I don’t know if I can just put on a persona. I’m genuine. Good, bad or indifferent, I’m transparent with my opinions and what I believe. I just don’t think in politics you can be that way.
BR: But you also have an ability to talk to both sides of the room. You can walk into a room with a bunch of upper-crust, elitist people and talk to them, and also talk to people from the streets where you grew up. Whatever color those people are, you can talk to them. That ability to cross over gives you a unique ability to lead.
RS: Yes, sir, yes it does. That’s why it’s something I have been considering because that’s the biggest thing about politics, how much power they have to make a change, to change policy and change the rules we live by. I really envy that, and that’s something I wish I could have. There are several things I would like to change.
BR: You’re shaking your head as you talk about that. There’s obviously something you’re thinking about that you would like to change.
RS: There are a ton of things. In the inner city, there’s not a lot of funding for our schools and I don’t know the reason for that. I really can’t understand why the schools are so underfunded. They can’t pay the teachers, so you have pretty mediocre teachers. Or they have underpaid teachers who work harder than anyone you’ll ever meet that have to deal with kids whose parents don’t have a job, who only have one parent in the household. That’s obviously not (the teacher’s) fault, but it’s really tough to survive in an environment with no jobs, school books … I graduated in 2006 and we had textbooks that were from 1996 that were are newest textbooks. It’s just unfortunate. It’s not a lack of effort with these kids, it’s the lack of supplies. If I don’t have the books to read, if I don’t have the information to study, how can I succeed? That’s a lot of the stuff I would focus on if I was elected because I think knowledge is power. Education is fundamental to any success. That’s your baseboard and I think a lot of kids in our neighborhood miss that baseboard. It’s just not provided. Our system is inadequate that way right now.
BR: Both your parents have always been in your life. How integral was that to your success? I’m sure you went to school with plenty of guys who could have been at this level if they had better support.
RS: I think that’s the most important factor in my success because of the things I got from both sides. There are a lot of things my mother taught me and helped me and disciplined me and made sure I stayed on the right track. And there are a ton of things that only my father could have taught me. Only he could have disciplined me in this way and shown me the kind of work ethic I needed. That’s why I work so hard and tirelessly and try not to complain about anything, because I know how hard he worked and still works to this day. To this day, he still gets up at 4 o’clock each day and drives a trash truck and picks up people’s trash.
BR: Have you told him to stop?
RS: Yes, he’s supposed to retire (in February).
BR: Going to have a big party for him?
RS: Huge party. But you can’t stop a man like that. It’s just in him. Once he stops working he’s going to find something else to do. He’s not going to just sit at home and do nothing. He has worked for 30 years driving trash trucks and that’s not it for him. He would drive the trash truck and then come home and build a living room for us. They didn’t want to pay contractors because we didn’t have money like that, so he just built it on his own. He got the permits, the materials and was on his back everyday and built the living room. He would do so much around the house. He would learn to fix the lawn mower or fix this person’s car or do this or do that. This was after work and he’s never asked for much. When you see that every day, it just shows you how it’s supposed to be.
BR: I’ve read the story about him teaching you how to hit in football. But is there another story about his approach to discipline that you go back to, especially on the days when football is drudgery?
RS: Really, it’s just what I told you. It’s me remembering, because my room was a converted garage. It was nice, but his car was parked right behind my room. So when his engine started, I knew he was going to work. I would hear it every single day at 3:45 on the dot like clockwork. I knew he was going to work. Good day, bad day, rough yesterday, back hurt, neck hurt, he blew out his knee … he was going to work. He got hit by a train.
BR: He got hit by a train?
RS: Yeah, his truck got hit by a train and he still went to work. That’s my pops. That’s just how he is. He’s as blue collar as they come.
BR: So you have one child already and you have one on the way, right?
RS: Yes, sir.
BR: So what’s the picture of Richard Sherman as a dad?
RS: Caring, protective … it’s awesome. It’s an awesome feeling being a father, because you never think you can fall in love with something so quickly. It was almost immediate. When they come out, I would do anything for this little human being right here. I change diapers, I feed them.
BR: Good for you, especially on the diapers.
RS: You think, "Aw man, I would never want somebody else’s poop on my hand," but when it’s your child, "Oh, it’s not that bad, I’ll just wash it off."
BR: You start reading at night to them?
RS: Yes I have.
BR: Boy is first, right?
RS: Yes, I have a little boy and a girl on the way.
BR: One of each. OK, the girl will be trouble.
RS: That’s what I hear.
BR: I have two boys, I’m so thankful. My buddies who have girls, those girls just toy with them. Especially when they get to about 12 or 13. You have a sister, right?
RS: Yes, and that’s exactly what happened. She was the youngest, too, so once she got started, the world was hers.
Jason Cole covers the NFL for Bleacher Report.