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For Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, words speak louder than actions

Did you hear what Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman said?

Richard Sherman is not well-liked among NFL fans, especially after this weekend, but his skills and attitude have endeared him to his teammates and Seahawks fans.
Richard Sherman is not well-liked among NFL fans, especially after this weekend, but his skills and attitude have endeared him to his teammates and Seahawks fans.
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No, not that. Or this. Or even this.

I’m referring to these words, spoken to a group of kids from Compton, CA, hometown of the third-year defensive back:

“People think the best feelings in the world are when you score a touchdown in front of millions of people,” Sherman says in NFL Films’ “The Trash-Talking Cornerback.” “That’s not the best feeling for me. In my opinion, the best feeling is when you help somebody who has nothing.”

Sherman knows both feelings well. He’s scored two touchdowns since being drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, including a game-tying TD against the Houston Texas that was the biggest play in Seattle’s overtime win on Sept. 29.

But the other feeling, the best one? There’s not an audience of 55 million people on hand to witness moments like those. Last summer, Sherman launched the charity Blanket Coverage - The Richard Sherman Family Foundation, whose goal, according to the organization’s Facebook page, is to “help as many kids as possible have adequate school supplies and clothes.”

A message recently posted to the foundation's Facebook page -- just above a picture of Sherman sharing a hug with Erin Andrews -- echoes Sherman’s statements about helping those in need.

“Yes, the wins, stats and other achievements have made an impact towards the ultimate goal of Richard Sherman and the Seattle Seahawks, reaching the Super Bowl. However, a bigger success story has been the realization of the entire Sherman family's goal to support young people by investing in their education by way of this foundation.”

Education is very important to the Sherman family. According to the website Local School Directory.com, the Compton Unified School District, which includes Sherman’s high school Dominguez, has a graduation rate of just 38.4 percent, barely half of the statewide graduation rate of 71.2 percent.

Under these circumstances, Sherman graduated second in his high school class with a 4.2 GPA and went on to play college football at Stanford, where he finished with a 3.9 GPA, beginning work on a master's degree in his final year of eligibility.

But those are just actions, not words. Since his mouth has become the focus of discussion in the build-up to the Super Bowl, here’s another juicy quote from Sherman:

“I know the jock stereotype—cool guy, walking around with your friends, not caring about school, not caring about anything,” Sherman told Sports Illustrated last summer. “I hate that stereotype. I want to destroy it. I want to kill it."

There’s that fire we’ve come to expect. In the wake of the overwhelming criticism Sherman has received since his postgame interview with Erin Andrews (some of it fair, some of it not, too much of it nakedly racist), there lies a profound irony that’s being overlooked or disregarded. From an academic standpoint, Richard Sherman is the exact type of role model that we need more of in communities like Compton.

To those who would say Sherman’s angry, arrogant words after the NFC Championship game should strip him of all rights and privileges as someone we should look up to, I’ll take your Richard Sherman and raise you a Tom Brady. Oh what, did you forget the F-Bomb Brady dropped on the refs following a horrible call at the end of the Patriots loss to the Panthers? Of course you did, he’s Tom Brady. It’s a matter of opinion whether or not Sherman’s outburst was more egregious and detrimental to America's youth than Brady’s. It’s a matter of record that a ref at a youth soccer game in Utah was killed this spring after being punched by a 17-year-old player who didn’t like a call.

But whatever, Brady’s a three-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback married to a supermodel, Sherman’s an arrogant loudmouth playing for the most despised team in the NFL. You’ll see what you want to see. As a smart guy once trenchantly observed, “People just use stereotypes to shape their mind in a certain way and judge people.”

I’ll leave it up to you to guess who said that.