JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Richard Sherman showed up very fashionably late, through a back door, and walked into a battery of cameras and reporters sized for a peace-in-the-Middle-East news conference. His audience so dwarfed the one around the table occupied by Russell Wilson, you would have thought Wilson was Seattle's backup punter, not its starting quarterback.
Sherman slid his headphones off his ears, took his seat, and spent his first night in New Jersey, his first night at the Super Bowl, rightfully reminding the news media that he did his country a favor. By raging against the stereotype of the black athlete, he encouraged a helpful discourse on the language of race in sports. And by informing those who wouldn't guess otherwise that he's really, at heart, a nerd with a Stanford degree, Sherman showed kids in Compton, Calif., and other American cities like it that they should never let anyone hang a low ceiling over their dreams.
"Once the path is blazed," Sherman said, "kids believe they can achieve those goals. They believe they can get out of the city because they've seen it done. They've seen how it can happen. They've seen it happening right before their eyes. It's not a dream. It's not a far-fetched thing for them. It's something that's right there, right in front of them."
It's a great thing, too. You've got to believe that five or 10 years from now, some kid somewhere who had no idea where Richard Sherman came from, or where he went to school, until these past seven days will be inspired by his journey to achieve something he never thought possible.
But back to that conversation on race. Sunday night, after a long week that saw the word "thug" run through more tests than a draft prospect endures at the combine, I asked Sherman if he felt he'd inspired a healthy conversation about the language of white and black in sports.
"I think it did have some effect on opening up the channels of communication and conversation and dialogue," he said, "and I think I had some impact on it, and I want to have a positive impact. I want people to understand that everybody should be judged by their character, and who they are as a person, and not by the color of their skin. I think that's something we've worked to get past as a nation … and we're continuing to work on it.
"It's healthy, everything that happened. All the people who sent the messages, and who tweeted what they tweeted, it ends up turning around to be a positive, because it opens back up the discussion and people begin to get more education. And any time you get more knowledge, you're more powerful as a person."