Richard Sherman, the brash Seattle Seahawks cornerback who is considered one of the best players in football, is a perfectionist. This comes out in film study. Or how he can recall a play with expert precision from two years ago. Or even when he dances. “He does this robot-type dance. You should see it. He’s a perfectionist in that, too,” said cornerback Tharold Simon.
But if you are looking for the best example of perfectionism from the league’s most perfect cornerback, you have to just look at the field on any Sunday. That’s when he’s fixing his teammates’ jerseys.
“I’m just looking at him like, ‘What’s going on?’ ” said Simon, recalling the time he had a crumpled jersey in the middle of a game. “And he’s saying, ‘I gotta fix you; I got to fix your jersey. Gotta get you right. That’s it, right there.’ ” And then he walks away.
This is a trait in Sherman no one can quite explain, but every Seahawk has a story about it. What tends to happen, over a 60-minute game, is that defensive players’ jerseys become a tangled, wrinkled mess. “You can barely read the numbers,” said defensive lineman Tony McDaniel. And so, Sherman does something unusual. He goes around fixing the jerseys whenever they get too crumpled or untucked. Players admit to confusion about the tactic, but it is, they say, a mixture of football strategy, sportsmanship and abnormal attention to detail. Still, it can get weird.
Untucked or crumpled jerseys are an often overlooked part of the game. In fact, Demarcus Dobbs, said that there are only a few people who notice a disheveled jersey: “The equipment guys,” he said.
But not so with Sherman, who can be found after any given play being the Seahawks’ neat freak. Safety Steven Terrell said the players who get the most attention are the defensive linemen and the defensive backs. Those are the ones with the most play-to-play contact with opponents and the likeliest to get unkempt. Sherman will find any player who looks a bit off, clean any grass off them and get the jersey right. Terrell said that cornerback Byron Maxwell, who has a habit of wearing long sleeves, likely gets the most attention from Sherman.
Those who know Sherman said it is a quirk that explains quite a bit about the self-proclaimed “best cornerback in the game.” Seahawks defensive assistant coach Marquand Manuel said it has been explained to him that Sherman wants the players’ outfits as sleek as possible because Sherman is “making sure guys aren’t going to get tugged or held. All of the stuff defensive guys aren’t thinking about.” Sherman wasn’t available to comment.
For the defensive linemen, the hulking players who tend to weigh over 300 pounds, this is a boon for their vanity. “It is really hard for a lineman to look good on the field,” said McDaniel. “And here’s Richard and he wants us to look presentable. As a defensive linemen, you get held a lot; the jersey gets all twisted. He wants us to look decent.”
Defensive end O’Brien Schofield admitted confusion when Sherman first performed the maneuver, but that befuddlement quickly gave way. “Then you’re like, ‘Man, you are looking out for me. You don’t want me to be looking sloppy!’ ”
To Kris Richard, the Seahawks’ defensive backs coach, the habit, which Richard often notices, is no surprise. This is because Sherman is so meticulous that he immediately corrects the smallest things. “As I started to see it, I didn’t think much of it because that is him. There’s order and a discipline in everything to him,” said Richard. “That’s him being a great teammate, him saying ‘you look sloppy, let me tuck this in, let me clean this. You are going to be neat and clean.’ ”
Schofield said that Sherman’s attention to detail is legendary. Last season, when he joined the Seahawks, Schofield decided to spend a pregame warm-up watching Sherman. He saw a man obsessed with the small things. “He’s working on the routes the offense will run, he’s breaking on the routes, all in pregame and you are just saying, ‘Wow.’ There is no wasted movement with him. Everything has a purpose.”
Schofield said he quickly decided to attempt the same routine—as well as he can.
To those inside the Seahawks organization, this innocent little habit is indicative of a leadership role Sherman took on last season. “He took on this role where it’s, ‘Richard Sherman is always prepared,’ so he wants everyone to reach his level,” Manuel said. “That means looking at every detail. You get enough details and you’ll eventually get an edge.”
But players and coaches only know what Sherman tells them about why he does it. They don’t have a definitive answer. Does he want the players to look clean or does he want them to not be held? “It’s probably a little bit of both. But he keeps me looking good and I don’t get held,” Schofield said. “So I’m appreciative.”