How do you judge a former star athlete’s appeal in the market he blew up in? 

Could it possibly be by emails? By story comments? By the cacophony that is the Twitterverse? If that’s the case, Richard Sherman is about as well-liked in Seattle as a plastic straw. 

Most of the columns I’ve written about the former Seahawks cornerback have been met with ire, as readers chastise a future Hall of Famer whose antics outside the lines, in their opinion, outweigh his achievements between them.

It’s understandable. Not-so-flattering moments such as publicly blasting Seahawks coach Pete Carroll for signing off on a pass play from the 1, or threatening to yank a radio host’s media credential, or the negligent-driving and criminal-trespassing charges he pleaded guilty to last March (accompanied by an even less flattering video) have marred the man’s image in the minds of many.

But the Sherman who has been milling around the Seahawks practice facility lately? The Sherman who is about to launch his sports broadcasting career on Amazon Prime? He elicits a completely different reaction from the folks who have gotten to know him privately. 

“Richard Sherman is probably one of the best people in the NFL I’ve ever met,” said Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett, adding that it was “dope” having him back around the team. “Sherm would be working with people ever since I got here, and was playing with them, regardless if they were going to make the team or not, he was out there staying with them, working on them, helping with technique. Didn’t matter because at the end of the day, they might not have fit this team, but they fit another team, and they were able to take it there and play.”

Advertising

This isn’t going to be a Richard Sherman hagiography. He is polarizing for a reason. There have been myriad criticisms toward No. 25 in this space, and no regrets about writing them. But if you want to best gauge a man’s character, seek out those who have been around him most — particularly if it isn’t by choice. 

Former Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright fits that description. He played alongside Sherman for seven seasons in Seattle and won a Super Bowl with him. I texted Wright on Wednesday to ask if he wanted to discuss the contrast between Sherman’s public perception and the man he shared a locker room with from 2011-2017. Wright’s response?

“Oh I love that man!!”

He elaborated on the phone.

“Listen, most people in general cannot handle honesty, and Sherm is going to be 1,000% honest with you at all times,” said Wright, adding that he thinks everyone who Sherman played with would have good things to say about him. “‘It may sting, it may hurt, but it comes out of a place of love.” 

Carroll was hoping Sherman could direct that honesty toward some of the Seahawks’ younger players, such as rookie cornerbacks Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant. And after being lured back to the team by vice president of player engagement Maurice Kelly, Sherman has dissected film on the new DBs, leaving at least one as awed as he was inspired. 

“I was starstruck. I was like ‘dang.’ I didn’t think it was real,” Woolen said of talking to Sherman. “You hear him talking, and while I’m looking at him talking I’m like ‘dang, this guy really took time to scout me and look at my film.’ Man, my whole life … I’ve been looking at his film.” 

Sherman’s most memorable moment on film — well, on game film, that is — came when he tipped Colin Kaepernick’s fourth-quarter pass into the hands of teammate Malcolm Smith to secure the Seahawks’ trip to Super Bowl XLVIII, which they won by 35 points. Since then, a number of sound bites, on-air confrontations and social-media battles have spotlighted a personality television execs have likely been salivating over for years.

Advertising

It’s also a personality that — regardless of how you may feel about him — elicited huge cheers from the Climate Pledge Arena crowd when he was introduced at the Champions of Change celebrity basketball game last June.

Appearing on 93.3 KJR Friday, Sherman told host Ian Furness that he is “doing fantastic” and looking forward to his new broadcasting gig. He noted that the forum, unlike coaching, allows him to be wrong sometimes without any real repercussions.

He praised Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson for all the work he put in during his time in Seattle, saying the Lumen Field fans should greet him warmly Monday night. He acclaimed Carroll as a coach, saying he was someone he appreciated from start to finish in the Emerald City.

Then, Furness asked who was most responsible for the Super Bowl win — Wilson, Carroll or the Sherman/Earl Thomas/Kam Chancellor-led Legion of Boom.

“We had one of the best defenses in football with a bunch of future Hall of Famers,” Sherman said. “So that’ll be my answer to that.”

Hey, can’t say he isn’t honest.