If you aren’t familiar with Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman by now, it’s time to turn on ESPN and learn about him. “I’m the best corner in the game and when you try me with a sorry receiver like (Michael) Crabtree, that’s the result you’re gonna get.” Thus are the words of Sherman just after he made a spectacular, game-winning play in the last seconds of the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers. These words are also the source of much controversy across the NFL and its fans.

Shortly after Sherman’s famous interview with Erin Andrews, fans and spectators alike took to social media to express their feelings for the Seattle cornerback. Countless tweets describe the Stanford graduate as a “thug,” “fool” and “classless jerk” for his post-game antics. But is Sherman really the bad guy that many people are making him out to be?

Now, I would like to delve into the first part of the aforementioned quote from Sherman to prove that he is not a thug. “I’m the best corner in the game.” Say what you will about this pompous claim, but it definitely holds truth in my eyes. In his three seasons as an NFL cornerback, Sherman has recorded 168 tackles, 20 interceptions, four forced fumbles and has been named First-team All-Pro twice. With the loss in prominence of players like Darrelle Revis, Sherman has clearly risen to the top of the cornerback spectrum in the NFL. So, do not depict him as a thug just because he seems cocky, because his play on the field definitely supports his claims.

It has come to my attention that many people are calling Sherman derogatory terms because of his background. The Seahawks defensive back grew up in Compton, Calif., a city known for crime and violence. He also attended high school at Compton Dominguez. While people may want to derail Sherman based on this, it is important to understand that he graduated as Salutatorian while being both a football and track star. So, make sure you get your facts straight before falsely accusing Sherman of being something like a common crook.

On top of that, Sherman had an even more impressive college career as both a student and an athlete at Stanford University, a very prominent school that is hard to get into for most people. What’s most important to note about his college career is that he stayed all four years to earn his degree. Most college football players leave school as soon after they become eligible for the NFL draft.

Sherman, on the other hand, stayed all four years so that he could earn his communications degree and graduate with a very impressive 3.9 grade point average while playing both football and running track at Stanford. I commend Sherman for his college accomplishments because if you told me that it’s possible to get a 3.9 GPA while playing two collegiate sports, I’d probably laugh in your face. But, Richard Sherman did it. He even became involved with the Phi Beta Sigma fraternity there. Odds are that he is smarter than you and I both.

On one more note, let’s address the elephant in the room which has given Sherman this new found image: race. Because he is an African-American who acted out and openly expressed his emotions, he is being criticized. Since he spoke loudly and made some controversial claims, people are playing the race card. Sherman has even acknowledged this by saying that thug is becoming the new “N-word.”

But put yourself in Richard Sherman’s shoes. The game is on the line and you’ve just caused the other quarterback to throw an interception in the endzone. Because of that play, your Seahawks are Super Bowl bound while the 49ers lose by a touchdown. Also, the pass you’ve deflected was intended for Michael Crabtree, a receiver who you’ve had Twitter fights with and are known as his enemy. Immediately after that play, you are called over to have an interview with Erin Andrews. How can you possibly hold in the excitement and emotion in that moment?

Honestly, if I were Sherman, I would have reacted in a similar fashion, as I think many people would have. So, I think it’s time to put the Richard Sherman controversy to rest because regardless of whether or not you think he’s a thug, Sherman is an All-Pro Stanford graduate who is headed to the Super Bowl while people are just steadily bringing his name up on social media.

It’s okay though, because I think Richard Sherman welcomes the controversy surrounding his name. For the entirety of his career thus far, he has been a player who receives criticism and lets his excellent performance on the field show for it. In other words, “his haters are his motivators.” Unfortunately, for the Denver Broncos who he will be facing in the Super Bowl, Sherman just gained a lot of haters before the most important game of his career.

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