When he isn’t messing with people’s heads –- his good-natured trash talk always seems to cause a stir –- Richard Sherman is trying to mold young minds.
The Seattle Seahawks cornerback spent time in his old neighborhood Wednesday, talking to high school students at Compton Dominguez (his alma mater) and Verbum Dei, then to a group of young people at a nearby Brotherhood Crusade community center.
Sherman, a former Stanford player who had eight interceptions for the Seahawks in the 2012 season, routinely makes an effort to give back to the community. That sharply contrasts the punkish image he has with some NFL fans, who simply see him as a loudmouth.
Sherman said the students “all have a goal, all have something they want to do, and they just don’t see a light at the tunnel.”
“It’s hard to walk down the street when it’s all dark,” he said. “They just need somebody to shed some light on the situation, to give them a chance and believe in them. If I can be that person, that would be great.”
Asked about the dichotomy of how he is on the field versus off it, Sherman said: “I think every successful football player has a little edge, a little dog about them that won’t allow them to like the other player, at least on the field. Off the field we’re perfectly fine.
“Off the field, I’m just trying to make the world a better place the best I can.”
On his mini-tour, Sherman was representing SWAG (Students With A Goal), a foundation aimed at increasing the chances of academic success for public school students, particularly those at risk.
“We want to make it cool to be smart,” said Romal Tune, who founded the nonprofit SWAG last year.
“When we met Richard, it was a perfect fit. He loves his community, he’s proud of where he comes from, he’s proud of what he’s achieved, and he’s very committed to giving back.”
Paul Hosch, vice president for mission advancement at Verbum Dei, said Sherman’s message “resonated” with the students, in part because he grew up in Compton and can relate to their everyday experiences.
“This isn’t a guy from a castle in the clouds,” Hosch said. “He’s somebody from down the street who did what he said he was going to do.
“For our honor-roll students, he gave them a voice and a face, a person to look and say, 'This guy said he was going to do something, and he did it.’ Mr. Sherman is the poster child of 'It’s cool to be smart.' Who can say Richard Sherman isn’t cool? Nobody.”