Seahawks give Richard Sherman millions of reasons to smile

Posted May 7, 2014

The Seahawks wrapped up another member of their Legion of Boom secondary on Wednesday when Richard Sherman signed a contract extension that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

The smile on Richard Sherman’s face said it all.

Not the one that the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback flashed on numerous occasions Wednesday while seated between coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider at the news conference to announce Sherman’s contract extension. This smile came moments earlier, when Sherman signed the four-year extension that makes him the highest-paid cornerback in the NFL.

It was the kind of smile that showed just far Sherman has come from that kid wearing hand-me-downs in Compton, Calif., to the best player on the planet at his position – with the financial security that comes with a contract to match his status.

“I don’t think you could ever plan this as part of any journey, it’s kind of fairytale ending – or fairytale beginning,” said Sherman, a fifth-round draft choice in 2011 who has become the best – and most productive – cornerback in the NFL over the past three seasons.

“So I don’t think this part was ever planned. This is one of those things you have to accept and appreciate. But still have the same hunger and you have to put it aside. Just like the Super Bowl win. We won a Super Bowl, but you have to put it aside and understand it for what it is. But also get back to duty.”

As Sherman walked toward the stage in the auditorium at Virginia Mason Athletic Center – with his parents, Beverly and Kevin; his brother, Branton; his girlfriend, Ashley; and Schneider and Carroll – the only thing missing was John Lee Hooker’s “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom” blaring from the sound system.

That’s “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” as in the Legion of Boom – the nickname earned by the secondary that drives a Seahawks defense which led the NFL in average points and yards allowed last season.

Sherman, 26, thanked the All-Pro safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, among others, offering, “I’d like to thank Kam and Earl, for being like brothers to me since we’ve been here – the entire time. They’re just like family to me. We go through battles together, week in and week out. We go through some battles in the offseason, which nobody sees. Those dudes are the reason I’m sitting up here today. Those dudes – the effort they bring, the way they play; the tenacity Earl brings every day, the tenacity Kam brings on the field every second – I’d like to say I appreciate them.

“When you’re around Kam and Earl, you never want to leave them. It’s a family, and you never want to leave the family.”

But that’s also “Boom, Boom, Boom, Boom,” as in the way the Seahawks have gone about retaining four of the key elements to the team’s success under Carroll that hit the highest of notes with a Super Bowl championship in February.

Last year, it was Chancellor who signed a contract extension. Last month, it was Carroll. Last week, it was Thomas. Wednesday, it was Sherman.

Just call it taking care of business, Seahawks style.

“Our goals for this offseason were to try to take care of our own,” Schneider said. “We treaded lightly in free agency to be able to take care of our own guys. We’re just extremely proud that this day has come.”

And if you’re worried about money removing – or even eroding – Sherman’s Mount Rainier-sized chip-on-his-shoulder motivation, well, you don’t know what makes this guy tick.

During the news conference, he rattled through the negative scouting reports that dogged him into the third day of the NFL Draft in 2011.

“I always read, ‘Richard Sherman will have the capabilities to be a backup corner in this league. He’s stiff-hipped. He’s not fast. He doesn’t accelerate. He doesn’t have natural cover instincts. He doesn’t have ball skills,’ ” Sherman said. “Those things are things I’ll always keep.”

Sherman also remembers as if it was yesterday that 23 cornerbacks were selected ahead of him in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Nothing will erase that,” he said. “Nothing will erase that chip. Nothing will erase that mentality. And that’s something I’ll always keep. It keeps me hungry. It keeps me attacking. It keeps me angry.”

Afterward, while talking to reporters who cover the team, Sherman provided his game plan for improvement as the Seahawks prepare to defend the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

“There’s more picks to get,” said Sherman, who led the NFL with eight interceptions last season and has a league-leading 20 since stepping into the lineup as a third-option injury replacement midway through his rookie season.

“I dropped about five of them last year, so I’ve got to catch more. I missed a few tackles, so that’s always an area of emphasis – being able to be more involved in the run game, play recognition. The off technique when people are in nasty splits is always something we’ve got to stay focused on because that’s how teams are going to attack us these days.”

From overlooked to impossible to overlook, it’s a big part of what makes Sherman’s version of the American Dream so satisfying – and deserved.

“If you believe in faith, hard work, parental guidance and education, this is your guy for your kids to look up to and to strive to be,” Schneider said. “This is a guy who’s been raised right and has worked his tail off to be where he is right now.

“This is truly a great American story right here and I think Richard is going to continue to keep writing this for the rest of his football career and then into the future we have no idea how far this is going to go for this young man.”

Added Carroll: “This is a great moment, for the family and for Richard and the club. But it’s also a great statement about a young man that really demonstrated an extraordinary belief in himself and dedication. To be a nerd in high school … he had a real vision of what he could become way back then. To see it come all the way through to this day, it’s a beginning. It’s a new beginning for Richard and his career, with all that goes along with it and what makes this guy up. He’s really special. And he’s a tremendous teammate. And he cares so much about his team members, there’s nothing more important to him than that. He stands for that.”

Sherman and his teammates had an “off” day in their offseason program, but in the audience during the news conference were Thomas and Chancellor; wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who also was teammates with Sherman at Stanford; safety Jeron Johnson, who also was teammates with Sherman at Dominguez High School in Compton; defensive backs Byron Maxwell and DeShawn Shead; wide receiver Percy Harvin; linebacker and Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith; and linemen Russell Okung and Greg Scruggs.

Sherman included his defensive teammates and coaches while completing his “thank you” list, and also owner Paul Allen.

“I’d like to thank Paul Allen for anteing up and paying me,” he said with a laugh. “I appreciate that Paul.”

Sherman also thanked past members of the Legion of Boom – cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond, who signed elsewhere in free agency; and the newest starter in the Legion of Boom – cornerback Maxwell, Sherman’s roommate on road games since their rookie seasons.

Despite his elite status, and new lucrative contract, Sherman remains – as Carroll said – not only one of the guys, but one who puts the team first.

“It’s just a form of respect,” Sherman said of being the highest-paid cornerback in the league. “It’s a form of appreciation from my team, and I appreciate my team doing that.”