You stand there with Branton Sherman on the field after a Seattle Seahawks practice while his younger brother Richard is jogging over to a screaming throng of fans so he can sign autographs and take pictures, and you think you’re comprehending what’s being said.
“He turned himself into this 6-3, 200-pound kid. He made himself that way by virtue of thought,” Branton, a former Montana State wide receiver, told FOX Sports this month. “When he was still at Stanford and said, ‘Bro, I’m gonna go play corner,’ I looked at him as crazy because I played receiver and most of the things I did, he did right behind me.”
You think you understand what he means: Richard was dedicated, so much so he worked hard to fill out his body and dedicate himself to his craft.
“No, he turned himself into that monster,” Branton said. “Physically, mentally…”
Wait, this part about turning himself into a monster. With the way he keeps going back on that, you’re starting to think he’s suggesting …
“He grew because it was in his head,” Branton said. “Period.”
There are books on such philosophies that have made authors millions from consumers looking for the secret (which is literally the title of a book and film — “The Secret” — that suggested positive thoughts return positive results from the universe) to success and karma. Branton Sherman, who says no member of his family has ever been taller than 6-foot-1, has read those books.
Richard Sherman is an All-Pro cornerback who plays in a league where success is usually believed to be the end result of talent, physical abilities and preparation. The secret of his success — and that of his peers — usually lies not in a self-help book, but rather a playbook.
That said, Richard subscribes to the laws of attraction. Each season, and each game since he played in Pop Warner, Richard has thrown out seemingly ridiculous predictions, with the idea being he’d accomplish a portion of his goal, which would be more than most players could do.
Ten touchdowns in a game? Crazy talk. But then, young Richard would score three or four times, to his older brother’s delight.
The act continues to this day. And this season, after coming out of nowhere to become one of the top cornerbacks in the league last season, Sherman’s goal is to match Dick “Night Train” Lane’s interception output in 1952.
“I’m gonna go for 14,” Sherman told FOX Sports. “That’s the record.”
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It’s a bold statement because, unlike some other aspects of the game that are under a player’s control, interceptions are dependent on a quarterback making a certain decision and throw.
“But there are certain ways to do it,” Sherman said. “If you’re playing well, covering well, then it’s like, ‘Don’t throw at him because he’s covering well.’ But you as a man, if I talk bad to you, then I challenge something outside of the game plan, outside of the known, you’re going to go away from the game plan because you know, ‘He’s not just going to disrespect me like that. Ball. I’m gonna throw it.’
“And that’s how you do it.”
It’s the power of positive thinking that motivates Sherman. One might view it as confidence leading to confident play. Sherman spends hours watching film each week, and his preparation allows him to be confident.
Talk to his brother, though, and one will hear theories about how yapping with Tom Brady during a game, calling himself “Optimus Prime” the week leading up to his helping keep “Megatron” Calvin Johnson in check and other actions have made Richard a better player because of good vibes.
Sherman said he’d make the Seahawks relevant, and he has. He said he’d be one of the top corners in the league, and he is. He even said he’d beat a suspension for testing positive for performance-enhancing drugs last year, and he did because of a rational reason — a cracked cup during the collection process.
During an interview after the Seahawks’ comeback victory over the Chicago Bears last December, Sherman told me Russell Wilson was just as good as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. At the time, that was considered nonsense. But within a few weeks, that’s exactly what many were saying after Wilson led the Seahawks to an undefeated December while posting 13 total touchdowns to two interceptions.
Does Sherman consider himself a visionary?
“I would like to think I am,” he said.
But he draws the line at prophet.
“I’m not a prophet,” he said with a laugh.
“Yeah, he is,” Branton interjected. “You visualize it, believe it and then it kind of manifests itself. That’s what he does on a large scale. … He doesn’t want to accept it, but I’ve told him, ‘Do you know what you’re doing? You’re prophesizing things and don’t even know it.’ He wants people to believe he’s just a normal human, like everybody else, to be honest with you. Like, ‘I know what it is, and I don’t really tell people that often.’
“But me, I’m not afraid to say it because I read a lot of books and I understand the way life works.”
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Life for the Shermans was once a lot tougher. They lived in Compton, Calif., where Richard’s father woke up before 4 a.m. to drive a garbage truck and where his mother worked for California Children’s Services.
There, Richard made his most meaningful prediction, according to Branton.
“As a family, he always said we were going to be OK,” Branton said. “We grew up in the inner city of the inner city. We were good people in that terrible environment. We had great hearts. And that was something he always knew, we’re not going to struggle anymore.”
Now, Richard is hardly struggling at the NFL level. He didn’t quite meet his goal of 12 interceptions last year (he finished with eight), but that doesn’t mean he’s aiming for 14 and will settle for 10 this year. He really believes he’s about to make a run at Lane’s 61-year-old record.
“It’s just having lofty goals and having an ignorance to think you can do anything, be anywhere,” Sherman said. “I never had anybody to tell me I couldn’t have 10 touchdowns and five picks, so I didn’t see why I couldn’t do it. It might seem far-fetched to other people and it’ll seem crazy until it starts to manifest itself and then they’ll be like, ‘Oh, now I see it. He really can do it.’ ”
Sherman said he’s going to back down on the public trash talk this year. That’s the goal, anyway. We’ll see what happens if and when offensive players start to prod him.
In the meantime, he’s prodding himself with his big ways of thinking.
“You keep going, you keep setting even loftier goals,” Sherman said. “If I could do what I did, I could go deep as an MVP, we can win the Super Bowl. Then once you achieve that, set it again.
“As long as I never become complacent, that’s my big thing. I don’t want to feel the ceiling. I want to feel like the sky is the ceiling. Shoot, if there’s footprints on the moon, why say the sky is the limit?"
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You’ve suspended any disbelief by now because you wanted to understand the mindset of Richard Sherman. So having accepted you’re in the presence of a prophet — sorry, visionary — you ask what’s coming for the Seahawks this season.
“Golden (Tate) and Doug (Baldwin) are going to have nice years,” Sherman says.
All right, we’ll keep an eye out for that.
“And I think Jesse Williams is going to be special,” Sherman predicts, adding with a laugh: “The Aussie.”
Alas, Sherman’s foresight apparently isn’t perfect. Williams was placed on season-ending injured reserve last month.
But he was right about Russell once, so you give him another shot to talk about his quarterback.
“I think he could be top five, stat-wise, in pretty much every category. Even though we don’t pass the ball like that, he’ll still be there,” Sherman says. “He tied the record for touchdowns and we’re a running team. And he didn’t start off as ‘The Man.’ So look for it.”
The team as a whole?
“I think we’ll go far,” Sherman says. “The NFC West, we have to win. That’s the immediate goal, and that’s all we can do now. As long as we keep it mistake-free, we can go as far as we’d like.”
Finally, you ask for one selfish prediction: The fate of the recently launched FOX Sports 1.
“I think you guys are going to be a success,” Sherman says.