Sherman’s status in the game no longer is challenged, and now that he is older, he is more invested in mentoring the Seahawks’ young cornerbacks. Here’s a five-step guide to the Unofficial Richard Sherman Cornerback Mentorship Program.
RENTON — If you’re interested in joining the Unofficial Richard Sherman Cornerback Mentorship Program, the group’s founder/director has advice that could double as a slogan.
“Be coachable,” Richard Sherman says. “Learn from the best.”
Sherman’s status in the game no longer is challenged, and now that he is older, he is more invested in mentoring the Seahawks’ young cornerbacks.
Here’s a five-step guide to the Unofficial Richard Sherman Cornerback Mentorship Program:
1. The introduction
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The program begins with an introduction. As a young player new to the Seahawks or the NFL, the first day can be overwhelming.
But Sherman approaches prospective new members in the program.
“He’s going to take you right in off the bat,” cornerback Tye Smith says. “He approaches you first.”
This is important, because Sherman carries an aura, a perception, that makes him intriguing. Young cornerbacks arrive in Seattle certain of Sherman’s ability but curious to see how he carries himself.
“The first time I met him, I met him in the locker room,” cornerback George Farmer says. “I moved from receiver, and he said it was going to take some adjustment. He said, ‘I’m here for you. Whenever you need anything, any questions you want to ask, I’m here for you.’ I’ve been one other place, but you don’t get that where the veteran guys approach young guys. He approached me.”
2. The compliment/challenge
Sherman makes one thing clear early in the program: He wants young corners to be better than him.
“He even says it: If you can take his job, he wants you to take it,” cornerback Stanley Jean-Baptiste says.
A few years ago, Sherman watched film with cornerback Tharold Simon on a flight home from Philadelphia. Sherman told him: I believe you’re going to be better than me one day.
It has been a frustrating career for Simon. He missed his rookie season because of injury and played in only one game last year because of another injury. He has potential, but he hasn’t capitalized on it, and he knows it.
Sherman still believes in Simon. Just the other day, Sherman said, “I continue to stand by what I’ve always said: He’s going to be better than me by the time it’s all said and done.”
3. The details
The mentorship program is mostly helpful, but a small portion of it can be … annoying.
“He’s like a mentor,” Smith says, “but it’s more like a brother. Older brothers can be annoying.”
“I get tired of him sometimes because he’s in my face too much,” Simon says.
That is because Sherman is hypersensitive to detail. Sometimes it involves footwork. Sometimes it also involves running up a hill during a workout.
“This offseason we were running up hills,” says Chandler Fenner, a former Seahawks practice-squad corner. “There’s like this vest that you pull. One person is running, and the other person is holding the vest. I’m running, and we’re running in groups, so there are people to your left and right.
“The second time I went, he’s holding the vest, and I’m running. He goes, ‘You have a tendency to just run off to the left side every time. I think you just need to focus on this tree, focus on this tree to the right, and just run to that next time.’ I was like, ‘All right, man, OK, I didn’t know you were criticizing my running up a hill now.’ But that’s just an example of what he notices.”
The program’s minor glitch happens when young corners watch Sherman. He breaks rules. He plays as much with his eyes and mind as he does with his legs and arms.
“I think you have to be very careful when you watch Sherm, because his brain is working on another level,” Fenner says. “You just can’t watch him in practice. You can’t just watch his film and try to emulate or imitate what he’s doing, because you don’t know why he’s doing it.”
4. The dancing
The program is not all discipline and hard work. Sherman usually makes time for dancing.
“He always dances in practice, and I love to dance myself,” Fenner says. “But Sherm, he has his own particular style. I don’t really know what to call it. Maybe twinkle toes or something. But he always gets on his toes, and he has this balance and ability to dance around on the very tips of his toes, Billie Jean style.”
The dancing gets a nice reaction from the crowd, if there is one, and his teammates get a kick out of it or join in, but the program’s bigger message is the relationship between work and play.
“He can keep the environment loose and fun at any given moment,” Fenner says. “But as soon as you snap your fingers, he gets back to being a fierce competitor. There’s a very fine balance between having fun and competing that he does very well.”
5. The voice
Other than his performance, Sherman’s most recognizable trait is his voice, a useful and versatile tool.
“It’s a great thing he has his own, distinct voice because you’re going to hear it anyway,” Fenner says.
It’s true: Sherman’s voice is often the loudest and clearest at practice. It carries. But there are different variations to it.
“There’s a stage where he’s clowning around with you,” Farmer says. “There’s a stage where he tells you to pick it up. And then there’s a stage where he’s all out when you make that big play, and he’s filled with joy.”
In quieter settings, when he’s mentoring one-on-one, the voice is measured and serious.
“The other day, after walkthroughs, I stayed after with him,” Smith says. “I was doing my step-kick, and I wasn’t getting it right off the bat like I wanted to. He was like, ‘Come on, come on, come on. Be more urgent. I need you to be more urgent.’ ”
And when a corner makes a big play, Sherman is one of the first — and loudest — celebrators.
“That voice is definitely my favorite,” Fenner says.
At this point, you may be wondering how long the program lasts. But the Unofficial Richard Sherman Cornerback Mentorship Program does not have an expiration date, so long as you don’t want it to end.
“When I had my tryout with the Giants, when I had my tryout here with the B.C .Lions, I told him,” Fenner says. “And he just told me to be relaxed and be under control. I’m a high-motor and high-energy kind of guy, and I can get going faster than I need to. He knows that about me, and that’s one of the great things about Sherm. He can see right into people.
“He just truly wants to help.”
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