The Seahawks parted ways with a longtime defensive standout, releasing cornerback Richard Sherman Friday.
Sherman, a fifth-round pick out of Stanford in 2011, began his career playing on special teams, but took over a starting role midway through his rookie season and never looked back, starting 111 straight games at left cornerback, postseason included, prior to sustaining a season-ending Achilles injury last November.
In his seven seasons in Seattle, Sherman compiled 32 interceptions and 99 passes defensed, both NFL highs since 2011. He earned first-team All-Pro honors three times, second-team honors once, and was selected to the Pro Bowl four times.
Most significantly, Sherman was a key part of a historically great defense that helped lead the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, including a 43-8 victory in Super Bowl XLVIII that gave Seattle its first Lombardi Trophy.
The Seahawks advanced to that Super Bowl in part because of a play Sherman made late in Seattle's NFC championship game win over the 49ers. In what has become one of the most iconic plays in Seattle sports history, Sherman deflected a pass intended for Michael Crabtree in the end zone, with linebacker Malcolm Smith catching the tipped ball for the game-clinching interception.
"Thank you for helping win championships, shape our culture and define success in Seattle," the Seahawks said in a statement. "We love you and your unwavering competitiveness, confidence and fierce passion for football and life. For that, you will always be a Hawk!"
With Sherman helping anchor one of the league's top defense of its era, the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense for four straight seasons from 2012 to 2015, something no other team has accomplished in the Super Bowl era. The 2013 and 2014 Seahawks also allowed the fewest total yards and passing yards in the NFL, and the 2013 team led the league in takeaways, a total that included eight Sherman interceptions.
When Sherman's 2017 season ended with a ruptured Achilles in Arizona, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described the corner as "an extraordinary, almost iconic player in this league." Sherman lived up to that description over seven seasons with the Seahawks both with his on-field talent as well as his larger-than-life personality that made him one of the league's biggest stars. Sometimes overshadowed by his coverage skills and big personality was a level of toughness that allowed Sherman to play six-plus seasons without missing a game despite various injuries along the way, and that also made him a willing and prolific tackler in run support, something not usually associated with cornerback play.
Sherman's skills as a cornerback weren't the only thing that helped the Seahawks defense over the years. His knowledge of the game, and more specifically his willingness to share it with young teammates, turned Sherman into something of an extra coach throughout his career, leading Carroll to describe Sherman as “the epitome of a team guy.”
"He helped me more than a lot," said cornerback Shaquill Griffin, who spent his rookie season with Sherman sitting next to him in nearly every meeting. "He took me under his wing early, trying to teach me everything he has learned and knows, and that's all I could ask for from a vet and a person like Sherman. I felt like I was put in great opportunity to be able to play with a guy like that. At first I didn't know it was going to be like that, that he was going to be so helpful, but that speaks to Sherman's character. It's awesome. Even after the injury, he sat there and still helped me during the game. The last couple of series, he was trying to help me and tell me what was going on, what could happen. That speaks a lot of him. I've been grateful to have a type of person like that to mentor me."
Sherman also made his mark off the field, primarily through the work his Blanket Coverage Foundation does to better the lives of youth in the Seattle area and in his hometown of Compton, Calif. Sherman was the team's Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominee in 2015, and also received the Steve Largent Award that year.
"I have lived first-hand what education can do for you," Sherman said of the inspiration for his foundation’s work. "I had parents who instilled it in me, and they stayed on me and they stayed diligent about it, and I want to do everything in my power for the kids I meet and the kids I have a chance to reach out to and touch.
"Education is the basis for success. In order to be amazing and have an amazing career and be successful in this world, you have to have a strong, stable base in school. I think a lot of people miss that, a lot of people miss the bus on that, because in the inner city, it's not something people always focus on. You have a lot of other things to worry about—how you're going to get your next meal? How are you going to even get to school? How you're going to avoid the drugs, how you're going to avoid the gangs. And people lose track of school, it becomes secondary in their minds. And I want to change that, I want to put it at the forefront of their minds and give them a vision that will enable them to go further in life than their parents or their predecessors."
With Sherman no longer on the team, the Seahawks will have one starting role to fill opposite Griffin, who excelled as a rookie after taking over the starting job at right cornerback early in the season. Byron Maxwell, who played well in Sherman's place, will be a free agent, though Carroll said following the season that the Seahawks "would love to have him back." DeShawn Shead, a starter in 2016 before missing most of last season with a knee injury, could be another option if re-signed.
Take a look back at some of the best photos from cornerback Richard Sherman's illustrious career with the Seattle Seahawks.