We Compete Against Ourselves

How do you avoid a letdown after a huge win? By holding yourself to the same standard of preparation and commitment, no matter who lines up across from you

By
Richard Sherman
· More from Richard·
Sherman’s fourth-quarter interception led to a field goal that put the Seahawks up 22–3 on the way to a definitive 29–3 win over the division-rival Niners. (Robert Beck/Sports Illustrated)

I’m no golfer.

But I do own a set of clubs. I’m taking lessons, and I’ve hacked away on five or six occasions with my teammate Brandon Browner. On Tuesday, after we beat the 49ers 29-3, Brandon and I planned to play few holes at our local public course in Renton, but Brandon couldn’t make it, so I went alone. I’ve played football, basketball and baseball, but there’s something special about golf. Maybe it’s the technical nature of the game, how controlled you have to be, and how you can never be perfect. I am reminded, this week, of why golf is so much like playing pro football.

Now, we’ve just beaten the 49ers—a team that our doubters believed to be the class of the NFL until Sunday. This week we’ll see the 0-2 Jaguars, a heavy underdog in the betting world who could be down to their backup quarterback for the second week in a row. You can already imagine the questions we’ll face in the locker room this week, and the answers we’ll recite.

How do you avoid a letdown?

“You take every game one at a time.”

Well I have the page now, so let’s go deeper. The real trick to avoid hangovers after big wins in football is the same mentality that applies to golf, my new hobby, and track and field, my old love. In the minds of the men in our locker room on the day of the loudest sporting event in NFL history, we didn’t play the 49ers, or Jim Harbaugh, or Colin Kaepernick, or Anquan Boldin. We were playing the Seattle Seahawks. When you play at a high level, a game has nothing to do with the opponent; it has everything to do with us. That’s what makes us different, and that’s what makes playing in the NFL special.

I can still remember my worst event in track at Stanford before I left the sport as a sophomore: the 110-meter hurdles. It was a difficult transition, going from the fluidity of football movements to the repetitions of the hurdles. But I do remember my personal best time—14.4 seconds. I don’t remember where I was, or who I was running against, but I’ll never forget the time.

The mindset must be the same, whether you’re covering Anquan Boldin or a Jaguars rookie.

That’s the way we look at football games. We remember two things: the final score, and whether we met our defensive goals. No matter who we play, we want to accomplish certain things in the red zone, certain things on third down and achieve a certain number of turnovers. It doesn’t matter if I’m playing against Boldin, Cecil Shorts or Andre Johnson—when I go up there, I want to dominate whoever is in front of me. There are certain standards we have on our defense that must be upheld.

Admittedly, I didn’t always feel that way about football. In college, you get up for the big games—Oregon, USC, Notre Dame. It’s a rivalry mentality. All over campus, everyone is more involved in those games, and the environment can dictate your mood. Even when I entered the league, when I was only playing special teams for the Seahawks as a rookie in 2011, I wasn’t necessarily jacked for every game. But I heard the message every day, and when I became a starter I understood the mentality of coach Pete Carroll and his staff: Every one of us is competing against ourselves. Get better at something, whether it’s a small thing or a huge thing. Nobody’s ever had a perfect day, but you’re trying to get there.

Of course, when the games come you have to study film and prepare for the tendencies of the opposition. I dived into Jags film this week just as hard as I did 49ers tape a week ago. You want to know who’s having big games, and you want to keep that guy from having a big game. Additionally, you have to be aware of the men around you—their strengths and weaknesses and how we can help one another. But you can’t overthink the guy across from you or the guy next to you. Great players on great teams are able to trust in the game plan the coaches come up with and trust in their teammates to do their jobs. Whether its stopping one guy or another, we trust in that game plan and we focus on executing it perfectly.

No matter who we play, we remember two things: the final score, and whether we met our goals.

You might ask, how can you hold a Boldin in the same regard as a less-experienced receiver on another roster? How does a rookie like Denard Robinson inspire the same effort and tenacity as a Calvin Johnson? It’s because I owe Denard and every other NFL receiver that same level of respect, simply for the fact that he’s an NFL player. This is the mountaintop of our sport, and if you ever disrespect that, it will be a long day for you.

The first time I ever played golf, I had no idea what I was doing. I knew enough to not look stupid. With borrowed clubs at a course in Canada in June I took a few embarrassing swings that ended in the woods or the heavy stuff. I was all over the map. Then, out of nowhere—CRACK. I connected with a driver and sent one 225 yards straight down the fairway on a par 4. For months I’ve been trying to duplicate that feeling. At that point it didn’t matter what the rest of my group had done—I was no longer playing against anyone but myself.

That’s how you never overlook anybody.

* * *

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34 comments
djs425
djs425

Richard Sherman is good at everything, he can write, his positive effects on people and his teammates are infectious and he's a great football player! The hardest part about playing football IMO is the mental part of the game. Most NFL players are capable of being great but the great ones who set themselves apart are the most mentally tough. The game this week will show just how mentally tough the Seahawks and Sherman are. You have to beat the best teams to be considered good but you have to beat the bad teams with the same conviction. I'm glad richard takes this very serious because the Jags will be giving us their best shot. Gus Bradley knows this team so he's gonna have his team in a position where they can capitalize. Not if Sherm has anything to do with it. A win is a win, and stats are stats whether it's against the 49ers or Jags. Pete Carroll said there's no more important game of the year then the game "this week". He's so right! This week is the Jags! We MUST seize our opportunities and give 100%! Next week the Texans will be the most important game but it doesn't matter. The Jaguars is all that matters. We don't lose at home, especially to good and bad teams! Winning Super Bowls isn't about the most talented team, it's about the most mentally tough team. I know this because my seahawks have never been mentally tough enough to win one. They've been as talented as many Super Bowl winners in the past but I know this game is more then talent. Talent helps of course but you can have the most talented 53 guys with the mental toughness as a kitten and they'll lose games. That's where I think/hope the Seahawks are as mentally tough as they are physically talented. We'll see...

MicahFry
MicahFry

As a Jaguars fan, I really appreciate his tone. A lot of media folks have been using pretty unprofessional commentary about us being guaranteed the first pick and things of that nature. It was nice to see that he respects all players regardless of their supposed talent level. Even with all the talking he does, that's a pretty humble attitude to have. Love these articles and hope they keep coming!

JPG
JPG

Very well written.

Willy1962
Willy1962

Great writing style.  You can tell this is an educated man.  Just as good on the field with his athleticism and drive.  Maybe a little too brash for some people, but when you can back it up, wow!  

A young Cassius Clay rubbed folks the same way... 

ScottF2
ScottF2

Heeeyyy

Denard Robinson

YemiThaBassMan
YemiThaBassMan

Richard, I'll never cheer for your team (Niners fan since 85, and yes, Sunday night still hurts), but as a person and writer, you are excellent. And...dadgum...you're a great corner too. 

This is one of the features I look forward to here on TheMMQB. 

Good call, Peter King. 

RockerMaximus
RockerMaximus

The best play of the game was when Sherman was run over. His guys in Seattle must of had a few good laughs over that one.

Mike N
Mike N

Rich?

Why do you wear the thermal head/face gear when the temp's are 65 degrees?

mike202
mike202

I like reading stuff from the players.  A whole different perspective than from writers.  I hope Sherman writes many more for MMQB

DanEvansJr
DanEvansJr

The photographer is RoD Mar, not RoB...

dhodgs
dhodgs

It's good to see the real Richard Sherman starting to shine through here. Maybe people will stop buying into the media rhetoric, but I doubt it.

TBFan
TBFan

Love the great insight from an extremely talented & cerebral player.

BillRobinson
BillRobinson

Thanks for a well-written, insightful column. Sherm is a talented and interesting writer with a great perspective on his profession.

gropeaire
gropeaire

Excellent article!  Excellent game, OK dance, thank you.

rongrummer
rongrummer

Stanford must be extremely proud to have you as an alumnus, I know I'm very proud and grateful to have you as a best-in-league all-pro cornerback in 'Hawk colors. 2 down, 17 to go, go 'Hawks!

bchill15
bchill15

Another great read by the best corner in football. Great game Sunday Sherm! Looking forward to the Jags on Sunday.

#GoHawks #LegionofBoom

MaxmillianDulin
MaxmillianDulin

Mr. Sherman it is a pleasure to read anyone with your insight and writing ability. i love your game on the field, and clearly your skill comes not just from your size, speed and confidence - but also from your quick mind. 

Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

Great read - so glad you're doing this column Richard

Donkeypunch
Donkeypunch

Great stuff Sherm. I look forward to the clinic you guys are going to host this Sunday. I can't wait for more material for the next Legion of Boom highlight reel. 

lcaseyk
lcaseyk

Wow.  This guy is the real deal, keep the columns coming.

Mike360
Mike360

@Mike NLynch was in the same thermal during the game, too. Not sure why, though. And I live in the NW, too. Strange sight...

RonEllington
RonEllington

I have no personal insight as to why he does but I can't help but think he does it so no one with a camera can read his lips

SammyPapaki
SammyPapaki

@RockerMaximus And isn't it just crazy?  He was still able to lay out Williams.  The difference in the Seahawks hitting the Niners and Niners hitting the Seahawks is that no matter who is doing the hitting, the Niners are the ones with multiple inuries.

SammyPapaki
SammyPapaki

@RockerMaximus  Is that anything like "The best play of the game is when (enterplayerhere) was run over"  And yes, I assume you are a Niner fan, because that is how a lot of them roll.     Moved out of the parent's basement in 1985, now I have teenagers living in my basement, claiming that it is awesome when someone gets run over.

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