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Seahawks' Sherman reveals inner man: 'a square, a nerd' who beat odds with work

By Michael Martinez and Phil Gast, CNN
updated 10:54 PM EST, Fri January 24, 2014
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Richard Sherman talks with CNN about his NFL career, growing up
  • "I've always been a square, a nerd," athlete says
  • He pays tribute to his parents, talks of his neighborhood
  • Agent says his image is now more positive than negative

(CNN) -- Richard Sherman made several things very evident last Sunday night:

He's confident. Brash. Competitive.

A "dogged mentality" helps, too, when it comes to lining up against the other guy.

That other guy in the NFC Championship Game was Michael Crabtree, the object of the cornerback's rant after the Seattle Seahawks earned their way to the Super Bowl by beating the San Francisco 49ers.

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"Don't you open your mouth about the best," Sherman barked on national TV, "or I'm going to shut it for you real quick."

In the days since the outburst stirred controversy, Sherman has become something akin to the upcoming Super Bowl's unofficial provocateur-in-chief.

But in an in-depth interview with CNN's Rachel Nichols -- which aired Friday night -- Sherman expressed some regret about the rant while showing a far more gentler side when he's off the field.

"I've always been a square, a nerd. Kind of odd, kind of awkward," he said. "I still am to this day. People just think I'm a lot cooler 'cause I play football."

Sherman said he likes the History Channel and "Animal Planet" on TV.

The Stanford University grad lauded his parents, saying they set an example of going to work every day and not complaining.

With his can-do attitude and philosophy "you gotta be who you are," it's fitting that one of his heroes is one of sport's most outspoken athletes -- Muhammad Ali.

Like Ali in his day, Sherman may now be the biggest newsmaker in sports following the Seahawks' playoff victory.

When he was about 7 or 8 years old, Sherman saw Ali for the first time on the screen.

Ali struck him as "so much different than everybody else in the world," Sherman said.

"It was one of his interviews," Sherman said. "And he was just so clever, so well-spoken, so articulate -- so off-the-cuff.

"He kind of went against the grain . ... and that takes a lot of courage to go against the grain, to say what you really want to say."

Cornerback stunned by rant reaction

As the Seahawks and Denver Broncos prepare for the Super Bowl on February 2, Sherman took a break from practice to speak with Nichols.

He spoke of defying all odds by growing up in a Los Angeles neighborhood -- Compton -- where violence is documented in rap songs, and working in school so hard and successfully that he later attended and played football at Stanford.

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"How almost oxymoronic does it sound that a kid from Compton is going to Stanford?" Sherman said. "I was just trying to show 'em anything's possible."

Sherman has been publicly excoriated, particularly on social media, for his postgame comments. He told Nichols he probably should not have attacked Crabtree. "And that was immature and I probably shouldn't have done that. I regret doing that."

Still, he was shocked by some of the racists responses he received.

"It was really mind-boggling the way the world reacted," Sherman told Nichols.

The NFL All-Pro defensive back told Nichols he still feels the sting of not going in the 2011 NFL draft until the fifth round -- the 24th cornerback chosen.

"You don't know what to expect. You don't know if your phone's supposed to ring or if somebody's supposed to text ..." he said. "When your phone just doesn't ring, doesn't have any activity, it's really disheartening. "

In the days since his rant, the phone is ringing for Sherman.

His agent said the incident has ended up being more positive than negative for Sherman's image.

"I think that he's more likeable," said Jamie Fritz.

Fritz told CNNMoney that interest in his client for endorsements has boomed since the remarks.

"We have some new (corporate) players who have come to the table who are starting the conversation," Fritz said.

Sherman told CNN he is concentrating on moving forward, preparing for Denver superstar quarterback Peyton Manning.

For now, he has one objective.

"On the football field, you're still going out to there to win. And if you're not going out there to win, what are you going out there for?"

CNN's Chris Isidore contributed to this report.

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