Richard Sherman: Blazing his own Trail

After a change of position in college to getting drafted much lower than he expected, Richard Sherman has developed into one of the more dominant cornerbacks the NFL has seen in the past decade-plus.

Sherman is also one of the most outspoken and free thinking athletes in professional sports right now. His attitude and style are a culmination of his Trailblazer athlete mindset.

Read more about how Sherman’s Trailblazing mindset comes to the surface in meeting rooms and on the gridiron:

Trailblazer athletes tend to be some of the more polarizing players in their sports. Guys like Tim Tebow, 2016 World Series Champion and NL MVP Kris Bryant and 2016 NFL MVP and former Heisman trophy winner Cam Newton are all exciting lightning rods of conversation both on and off the field.

Due to their high energy, enthusiasm and showmanship on the field and their free thinking, idealistic, and taste for aesthetics off it, Trailblazers are often those players that fans can’t seem to agree on.

One of the biggest lightning rods in sports, and one of the most free-thinking athletes in recent history is Richard Sherman, the cornerback for the San Francisco 49ers– formerly of the Seattle Seahawks.

“Richard never wanted to be average or good,” said Keith Donerson, his high school football coach. “He wanted to be great, in everything that he did.”

Trailblazers are Showmen


On the field, he’s brash and to an outsider he may seem to be selfish or reacting only to be placed in the spotlight. This isn’t the case however. Trailblazers love to perform, and when they know they’re performing at a high level– their joy shines through, and it becomes about the performance of their “craft” which ties back to the artistic and creative mindset of a Trailblazer.

Richard Sherman isn’t pretending to yawn just to disrespect his opponent, he’s doing it because he knows he is playing well– and wishes to draw even more out of the receiver he is covering in an attempt to push himself even further. That’s the spirit of a Trailblazer, and when they’re playing well or get the better of you, you’re going to know about it:

Now this mentality isn’t always a strength, it can manifest itself into certain weaknesses as well. Trailblazers are easily distracted and may make unnecessary changes during competition.

This is where elite level Trailblazers make their money, able to perform their craft in a way that suits their style while not letting it distract them from the task at hand.

Sherman is notorious for being a very free and forward thinker in today’s NFL. When a lot of fans want players to just shut up and play, or fall in line with the status-quo, Sherman’s has always been a voice that goes against that line of thinking.

Blazing his own Trail

Recently, he talked on the Player’s Tribune in an article titled How it All Went Down, where he talked about his signing with the 49ers and his decision to negotiate the contract himself, without an agent.

“One of the main reasons I had decided to represent myself in negotiations was because I knew it would be a big challenge, and I never shy away from a challenge. But also, I wanted to be represented by somebody who was going to look out for my best interest and nothing else. So I thought, Who better than me?” Sherman mentions in the article.


“I wasn’t just going to fly by the seat of my pants. I downloaded past contracts from the NFLPA database and, with the union’s help, spent a lot of time studying the language and structure and nuances within contracts. And when all was said and done, and the 49ers and I had agreed to terms, there were a lot of things I got out of the deal that I wanted,” Sherman said.

This is the perfect example of Sherman’s Trailblazer mindset. He’s not afraid to let people in to see his line of thinking, despite knowing there are people who will disagree with him no matter what he says.

It also shows how he welcomes change, another Trailblazer attribute– forgoing the traditional route of NFL contract negotiations.

Some may say that Sherman believes too highly in himself, that his expectations and goals are unrealistic or that he made the negotiation of his contract much more difficult than it needed to be, and he came out with far less than he could have gotten– but in true Trailblazer spirit, he bet on himself, embracing a new idea he came up with through his own, unique problem solving.


When describing Richard’s success in a New York Times profile released before the Seahawks Super Bowl victory over the Denver Broncos, his brother Branton said Richard’s success was, “’Destined to happen’ because Sherman believes that he can create his own reality through visualization. Whatever he wants, whatever he needs — if he envisions it happening, it will.”

He’s not just focusing on and about contracts solely concerned with him, as a Trailblazer, Sherman is an athlete who also empathizes with their teammates, especially after forming close relationships with them. So when former teammate Marshawn Lynch was fined $100,000 for not speaking to the media– Sherman seized the opportunity (along with teammate Doug Baldwin) to not only stick up for Lynch, but also poke fun at some of the NFL’s more rigid policies regarding its players:

Sherman also has an artistic temperament, like other Trailblazers, including Kris Bryant and Cam Newton. Where the other two Trailblazers picked clothing as outlets for their creativity and artistic expression, Sherman paired with The Players Tribune to shoot and edit his own documentary series called “Out of Context” where he spent a season discussing life, sports, and social issues, in a way he artistically designed.

Developing the Trailblazer Mentality

On the field, Sherman gets his brash style and confidence from a childhood of looking for athletes with similar mentalities.

“Outside school, Sherman’s favorite course was imitation. He studied cocksure athletes like Deion Sanders and Michael Irvin and Muhammad Ali, some of the sporting world’s best entertainers. He noticed their mannerisms, how they oozed confidence and charisma and passion, and resolved to create a similar persona for himself,” reads the New York Times feature on Sherman.

“His fascination was that Ali was able to talk trash and be the best at what he did but never cross that line,” Sherman’s father, Kevin, said. “At the end of his career, everybody was still talking about him. What more can you ask for?”

When talking about Sherman’s mentality heading into games, former Seahawks secondary coach Kris Richard notes that Sherman isn’t worried about the opponent, only about performing at a high level with his teammates, “He doesn’t want to be your friend or anything like that,” Richard said,“He wants to go out there and have a fantastic time with his teammates and dominate.”

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