Copyright 2014 The Deseret News Publishing Co.
Deseret Morning News (Salt Lake City)
It's been a few days since Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman made the big play that helped send his team to the Super Bowl, and by now almost everyone is tired of hearing his name.
That's because as good as the All-Pro corner is on the field, his mouth is just as talented during games and postgame interviews. It is for that reason Sherman is such a polarizing athlete.
By now you've heard his infamous "I am the best cornerback in the league" postgame interview with a bewildered Erin Andrews holding the microphone. If anything, it became an instant classic.
Of course, like many others, I went to Twitter right after the televised rant and sure enough almost all of my newsfeed for a good hour and a half was about it. Sherman's name was trending for a while, too. Everyone had something to say about it, ranging from "classless" to "awesome." However, the majority of the knee-jerk reactions football fans had were negative. Sherman adjectives included "punk" and "thug" on that list by fans.
Questions arose if he was a good example for kids playing Pop Warner football, aspiring to be in the NFL.
Sherman has since apologized, but it still got me to thinking whether Sherman is a "punk" -- or even a villain -- for his rant or for his football hubris, and the answer is no. In fact, Sherman is a great role model for young athletes, regardless of his actions in his football uniform.
I'm not justifying Sherman's postgame antics or promoting unsportsmanlike behavior on the field, but what happens on the field is just a small portion of a football player's life. What he does off the field is just as important, if not more.
Consider Sherman's record off the field first. It's been well documented that Sherman, who hales from crime-ridden Compton, Calif., rose above the gangs in his neighborhood to be a great athlete, but an even better student -- a straight-A student.
A couple of weeks ago, the Deseret News ran a piece about the rallying support to get black male athletes to graduate from college. The article brought up an NCAA statistic that about half of all black male athletes won't graduate within six years of starting college."
Sherman is an example of what NCAA aims for its student athletes. He went to Stanford University and graduated with a 3.9 GPA even before finishing his NCAA eligibility. He spent his senior year at Stanford working toward a master's degree.
Where was this "punk" the day after that rowdy interview? How about speaking to students about the value of an education?
Because that's exactly what a "punk" would do, right?
Sherman has spent a good amount of his time off the field this season promoting his "Blanket Coverage" foundation, which has the goal of "helping as many kids as possible have adequate school supplies and clothes."
So where should that factor in when determining role models for young athletes?
It should be more important than being "the best cornerback in the league." An athlete should only be a role model if they provide an equal or greater amount of influence in their community as on the field of play.
Sure, Sherman isn't perfect. He fought and defeated a performance enhancing drug suspension last season. He's been known for his trash talk long before Sunday, but he has a life off of the field and has devoted a good amount of that giving back to his community.
It is a far cry from the offseason NFL police blotter headlines.
Sherman's antics might be unclassy on the field, but the line has stopped there.
He should be lauded for encouraging young athletes to value their education as much as their sport and for helping every student achieve in school, as should any athlete that devotes his or her time supporting their community.
That's what a real athletic role model should be, because an athletic career will end well before being a citizen will.