Long before Seattle’s Richard Sherman learned to talk trash, his dad hauled it.
Kevin Sherman, father of the talkative and provocative Seahawks cornerback, has worked for the Los Angeles sanitation department for 26 years. Each day, he gets up at 3:45 a.m. to drive a trash truck, typically opting to work holidays to make more money.
“People say, ‘Let your son take care of you,’” said the elder Sherman, 50. “Yeah, but I’ve got a few years left until I retire. Why would I mess up my own retirement? Why should my son have to foot everything? I have a medical plan that will cover me. Why should my son have to pay my medical bills? It doesn’t make sense to me.”
Ask Richard Sherman about his 4.2 grade-point average at Dominguez High in Compton, or his Stanford education, and he points to the work ethic he learned from his father and mother, Beverly, who works with disabled inner-city children.
“I think it was incredibly significant,” Sherman said of his parents’ example. “It forced my brother and me to understand priorities and family. You’ve got to do everything in your power to make sure your family is taken care of.”
Of his mother, he said: “She’s always been the one holding down the household. . . . I’ve gone up there many times to see her and spend time with the kids. It’s remarkable, man. That’s probably as humbling as it gets.”
This is the other side to Sherman, whose chest-thumping bravado on the field — something that has made him a Super Bowl week star — is in sharp contrast to his happy-go-lucky and endearingly conscientious personality off it.
His pro wrestling-style tirade on national TV after the NFC championship game against San Francisco made him look out of control and emotionally unstable. In an interview with Fox’s Erin Andrews, moments after his game-saving deflection of a would-be touchdown pass to Michael Crabtree, Sherman screamed about being the best corner in the league and chided the 49ers for daring to test him with a “sorry” receiver.
That wasn’t a first for Sherman, who runs his mouth like a carnival barker during games. He famously got in Tom Brady’s face last season after a victory over New England in Seattle, and, after a playoff victory at Washington in early 2013, was slapped in the face by Redskins tackle Trent Williams.
Kevin Sherman said his son is simply “portraying a personality” when he steps onto the field, and that he would not be as good a player were he to suppress that.
“You cannot bring enough heat to be an athlete in this game if you’re not overcharged,” the father said. “Because you’re supercharged when you get inside those lines. And when you’re over here [outside the lines], you’re just being yourself, kind of laid back and relaxed.”
Kevin and Beverly Sherman were at the 49ers-Seahawks game, sitting in seats behind the end zone where Richard made his victory-saving play. Beverly joined her son on the field after the game. Kevin didn’t budge.
“I sat there for a good 30 minutes after the game was over,” he said. “It was kind of a proud moment, you know? I had to sit there and gather myself, then I headed down to where the parents go.”
In many ways, the son is living his father’s dream. Kevin Sherman was a good athlete at Crenshaw High, but surely would have been better had he not lost his right eye in a go-kart explosion at age 14. He said he wasn’t in a gang, but spent a lot of time with gang members. At 18, he was shot twice in the chest, the bullets narrowly missing his heart.
“After that I said, ‘To hell with hanging out with people,’” he said. “I went out and got a job, and I’ve worked ever since.”
He worked in fast-food restaurants, and a flower shop, before getting a job with the sanitation department, where he has spent nearly three decades.
“It’s not as tough as it used to be,” he said. “We used to hand-load. We’d literally pick up the cans and dump them. Now, it’s gotten a little easier. It’s more of a prideful job now; you stay clean most of the day. The old days were sweaty. You’d bust your back just to get through.
“You would work a good solid four hours, and you would be soaked from head to toe. You’d go in and take a shower and go home. Just some of the grossest stuff you’d ever want to see . . . it’s horrendous. It’s very humbling. But to me, it didn’t matter. It was the price I had to pay to feed my family.”
His sons, Branton and Richard, were watching. Branton went on to play football at Montana State and is now his brother’s business manager.
“My dad didn’t have an easy upbringing at all,” Richard said. “Just living with one eye is tough in its own right. But then all the adversity that came with it, it’s remarkable how far he’s come and how hard he’s worked. When I was young, I tried to drive with one eye closed just to see how hard it was. I can’t imagine going through that.”
Often, when one sense is lost, others are heightened. Sherman said his father’s vision in his good eye is uncommonly sharp — and it was with that keen eye that Kevin Sherman witnessed the biggest play of his son’s life.
“I’m so glad my dad was there to see that,” Richard said. “You always want to make your dad proud, and I’m very happy he got a chance to see that game. He also had a dream to play in the NFL and do all these things, but it didn’t end up working out because of all these circumstances. He’s been able to live vicariously through his son. That makes me pretty happy too.”
Kevin Sherman will attend the Super Bowl on Sunday and, naturally, will fly back to L.A. the next morning.
He’s working Tuesday.