As athletes, our play on the field will be remembered in many respects. But the impact we have on future generations will be felt long after everything we’ve done on the field has been forgotten. Richard Sherman
At the start of every postgame press conference, Richard Sherman takes a moment to send a personal shoutout to the group of young men serving time in unit B1 at the Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall.
Sherman knows firsthand what it means to be forced to make a way out of difficult times. Before earning the reputation as one of the most elite cornerbacks to play the game of football, Sherman was a product of Compton, Calif., widely known for its violent reputation and vast gang affiliations.
Everyday Sherman had constant encounters with opportunities to choose the wrong path. In a city that once owned the title for the highest crime rates in the state of California, academics and sports are what kept him out of trouble. A student at Dominguez High School in Compton, Sherman was voted "Most Likely to Succeed" by his peers. Sherman graduated with a 4.2 GPA and finished school ranked second in a class of 420 students.
Sherman made his way to Stanford University, becoming the first student in 20 years to attend on both academic and athletic merits. After graduating with an undergraduate degree in communication, Sherman was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft
Now midway through his ninth NFL season, Sherman, well-deservingly, is recognized as one of the most vaunted cornerbacks in the game of football. Since entering the league, Sherman owns records for the most interceptions and defended passes of any active player in the NFL.
Despite the success of his NFL career, the four-time Pro Bowler, three-time first-team All-Pro, Super Bowl champ has never forgotten where he came from. His experiences dating back to his childhood in Compton shaped him into the humanitarian he is today.
In 2013, he and his wife Ashley founded Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, an organization built on supporting the economic and educational advancement for young people of color. Blanket Coverage provides students in low-income communities with school supplies and clothing to help them achieve their goals. Since its launch, Blanket Coverage has now helped over 70,000 students and raised more than $1.5 million.
Sherman's parents instilled the importance of the power of education into their children. That message stuck with the corner and has made education his primary passion. In 2017, Sherman partnered with Microsoft to donate $20,000 worth of technology including computers and printers to his high school alma mater.
Sherman continues to donate school supplies, food and clothing to thousands of underserved students each year, ensuring children can focus on their education. Highlights include 5,000 backpacks donated at the start of the 2017 school year – 3,700 were donated at the Blanket Coverage Community Day where Sherman hosted over 2,000 families for a free day of family fun including a hot meal. Over four years, Sherman has invited 8,000 students from low-income neighborhoods to an annual charity softball tournament and sent each home with a backpack full of essential items. In 2018, Sherman went a step further for 40 families, providing gift cards for future school supplies.
Just recently through the aid of social media, Sherman caught wind of a Pop Warner football team in Compton attempting to raise money for a National Youth Championship in Florida. Sherman responded to a tweet from Fox 11 Los Angeles and ultimately donated $5,000 to the team's GoFundMe page to assist in "boarding, travel, transportation, activities and food" for the players.
Sherman's efforts go beyond his hometown. A day after he was named the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) Week 11 Community MVP, Sherman donated $7,000 to Cabrillo Middle School in Santa Clara to cover their outstanding cafeteria debt. A month prior, he donated nearly $23,000 to the Tacoma School District to relieve the lunch debt of students who are receiving free or reduced lunch.
Students aren't the only beneficiaries of aid through Sherman's foundation. Recognizing the housing crisis in California and Seattle, he has provided over 7,000 care packs in the last three years to the homeless and has adopted more than 160 families during the holidays since 2013. Last year, Sherman adopted youth homeless shelters in Seattle and San Jose, distributing everything from hygiene products and groceries to tablets and mattresses. Since 2014, Sherman has donated $500 gift cards annually for holiday meals to 25 low-income families during Thanksgiving.
This year alone, Blanket Coverage has also donated 1,500 care kits and supply bags filled with hygiene products and warm weather gear to homeless shelters in Seattle and the Bay Area. The foundation also kicked off the year by reaching outside of the realm of football, partnering with Seattle Pacific Women's Basketball to sponsor the first-ever Community Hoops Clinic in January. Their sponsorship enabled collegiate athletes to host over 60 local youth for an afternoon of skills, drills and mentorship.
Highlighting his efforts in the social justice space, Sherman participated in the 2018 Launching Justice forum in Oakland hosted by the Players Coalition, focusing on district attorney candidates and the major role they play in the justice system. He also started the 49ers Social Justice Initiative's player's council decision to fund a grant, in partnership with Google.org, to The National Center for Youth Law in support of the Santa Clara Youth Justice Initiative, which works to reform the way the country interacts with young people who come into conflict with the law. Sherman noted, "There is inequality in our world. There is not freedom and justice for all. We want to use the platform that's given to us by playing in the NFL so that we can be a voice of change in this county."
It goes without saying, Sherman has left an impact impossible to measure. The nine-year veteran has proven himself as an All-Pro on the field and in the community.
Sherman says it best himself, "As athletes, our play on the field will be remembered in many respects. But the impact we have on future generations will be felt long after everything we've done on the field has been forgotten. I consider this in how I raise my own kids and in how I work with other children in our community. And if we want to get to where we know we should be as a society, I challenge everybody else to do the same."
Whether it's as a leader of the San Francisco 49ers defense, a mentor to the troubled youth at the B1 Santa Clara County Juvenile Hall, or as an idol of a young kid growing up in Compton, Sherman lives as a constant reminder to never let your environment, or your past, define you.
View some of Richard Sherman's best moments in the community with the 49ers and his foundation, Blanket Coverage, The Richard Sherman Family Foundation. To honor his extensive work in the community, the 49ers have named Sherman as their 2019 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Nominee presented by Nationwide.
The San Francisco 49ers announced cornerback Richard Sherman as their 2019 nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide, marking his second nomination for one of the NFL's most prestigious awards. Named after the late Hall of Fame running back of the Chicago Bears, the Walter Payton Man of the Year Award presented by Nationwide is given annually to a player demonstrating outstanding community service activities off the field, as well as excellence on the field. The winner will be announced in Miami, FL, the site of Super Bowl LIV, during the ninth-annual NFL Honors awards show, on February 1st.
All 32 nominees will receive a donation of up to $50,000 in their name to their charity of choice. The winner of the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award will receive a $250,000 donation to the charity of their choice. All donations are courtesy of the NFL Foundation and Nationwide.
Fans are encouraged to participate in Nationwide's 5th annual Charity Challenge, a social media campaign designed to support and promote team nominees. Fans can vote on Twitter by using #WPMOYChallenge followed by their favorite nominee's last name. The player whose unique hashtag is used the most between Dec. 12 and Jan. 12 will receive a $25,000 contribution to their charity of choice, while the second and third place finishers will receive $10,000 and $5,000 donations, all courtesy of Nationwide. Hashtag information and official rules can be found at NFL.com/ManOfTheYear.