Sherwood said his teammates had approached him when the allegations first surfaced, urging him not to believe everything that was being said about the team.
He said he was moved by the fact that while the three defendants were facing felony rape charges, their first concern seemed to be his feelings.
"I felt really special then, because I knew they were looking after me as well," he said.
Sherwood seemed to struggle a bit as he grappled with the notion that his teammates could have made such caustic remarks.
While the alleged slurs have never been flatly denied by the Duke players, it's unclear who among the dozens of team members at the party may have uttered them.
"If it is in fact true, it's disgusting," Sherwood said.
Noting that he's never heard his teammates even jokingly utter such insults, Sherwood said that racial remarks were a fact of life in America.
"It's not the first time I've -- I would ever hear anybody call … me by the 'N-word' or anything like that. … And it won't be the last," he said.
"If it's true, everybody's human," he said.
"Everybody makes mistakes," he said. "No one's Jesus. Like no one's going to be perfect all the time. So you just forgive. Don't necessarily forget, but you forgive and you work to correct the mistake."
As the only black player on the team, Sherwood was excluded from authorities' requests for DNA from all the team players.
"I was fully expecting … to give DNA. I remember the day vividly. I remember they got me to walk out with everybody else. And then Coach Pressler, our former coach who I love dearly, he said … 'Come here real quick.' I came over. He was like, 'You know, you don't have to go,'" he said.
Sherwood said he knew his teammates weren't mad, "but it's almost like I'm leaving them … It's like I'm not there with my troops. That's the kind of sense I felt."
He said that, as the first player named in print, he also felt strangely isolated by his race, a feeling he said he never felt on the field or in the locker rooms.
"Devon Sherwood. … The lone black player," he quoted an early newspaper article as referring to him.
"The 'lone' being the key word, as if I was in a corner in the locker room. Everybody else was 50 yards away from me. It was a very, very key word there -- the 'lone.' Instead of saying the 'sole' black player, the 'lone' black player."
Sherwood said that last spring he was the target of accusatory, anonymous e-mails
"One e-mail, [the] person basically said that if my teammates [go down] then I should go down as well, that I should quote-unquote, rot in hell."
"I don't know why. I wish I knew why. … But at the same time … I really don't care. But at that time I was like, 'Whoa. This guy wants me to rot in hell. Like, he doesn't even know. He doesn't even know who I am. … What my favorite food is or anything like that. He doesn't know me at all. And he wants me to rot in hell if these guys go down, too," he said.
"I would get random e-mails saying I was letting down my race, that I should turn in my teammates, referring to me as a 'young black soldier,' basically saying I was letting down my race, I was letting down my forefathers, which is completely insane," he said.
Sherwood said he turned to his mother, Dawn, a class of '75 Duke graduate school alum, who counseled him to take it all in stride.