Clardy's Corner: All grown up

What do you think of when the name Richard Sherman comes to mind? Do you think of his dreadlocks flapping in the breeze as he runs down the field? Do you think of his big plays against U$C, especially in the Coliseum? Do you think of his ebullient personality on the field? I think of a young man who probably embodies Stanford Football and its transformation over the past few years.

Richard Sherman grew up in Compton. Yes, that Compton. The town that N.W.A. made famous. By his own count, eight of his friends didn't make it out of high school alive. Sherman made it to Stanford.

Injuries to Mark Bradford thrust Sherman into a starring receiver role early in his freshman season. Thirty-four catches and three touchdowns later, Sherman was on the Pac-10's All Freshman team. On a few occasions, Sherman showed big-play ability, especially on a 74-yard touchdown that helped Stanford to a win at Washington. However, that was the Card's only win in 2006, and so Jim Harbaugh walked in the door.

Sherman built on his performance in 2007, leading the team in receiving yardage and touchdowns. He was one of Stanford's few big-play threats on offense in that transition season.

But while he was growing as a player, he didn't seem to be growing as a teammate and a leader. That became clear during a maddening loss to the Huskies at Stanford Stadium that fall. Early in the fourth quarter, Sherman's simmering frustrations earned him a personal foul from the officials. Once he got to the bench, he boiled over with an outburst that developed into an altercation.

Jim Harbaugh suspended him from the team, initially indefinitely, then reinstated him after one game. Afterwards, Sherman told the San Francisco Chronicle, "I've never lost this much in my life at anything. We've lost 18 games in the last two years. I think it was frustration built up over a couple of seasons. ...I didn't deal with it well."

He appeared to be poised to deal with it by truly breaking out as a wide receiver in 2008. Instead, a knee injury ended his year just four games in. The following spring, Sherman ended his receiver career by asking to switch to cornerback. That move shocked Cardinal coaches and fans, and while he started 12 games, Sherman spent much of the 2009 season getting re-settled into a position he had last played in high school.

But this season, Sherman is playing like a true veteran at the position. I don't think you can consider him a lockdown cornerback, but he is certainly one of the more solid corners in the Pac-9. His tackling has been sure, and he has shown a real nose for the ball. Delano Howell delivers the big hits, and Michael Thomas delivers the big plays, but Sherman has been the most consistent and steady element of the Stanford secondary.

It appears that Sherman has also grown as a teammate and a leader. Meanwhile, his academic strengths have not been sacrificed for his athletic career. He earned his degree in communications last June, and has been taking masters courses this fall.

Four years ago, Stanford Football was 1-11 and looking for a new head coach. Now, Stanford Football faces the possibility of going 11-1 and looking for flights to a BCS bowl game. The program has come a long way.

Four years ago, Richard Sherman was a talented but immature receiver. Now, Richard Sherman is a veteran cornerback who has become one of the great ambassadors for the Stanford Football program. He too has come a long way.

Sherman joins the rest of this year's senior class playing its final home game at Stanford Stadium. Andrew Luck has earned his place among the players as the face of the program. But perhaps the player who truly best personifies the program and what it can do for a player on and off the field is none other than Richard Sherman.

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RANDOM PAC-9 THOUGHTS

Honestly, there isn't much I can add to last week's Big Blowout that hasn't already been said. Well, except this: against Oregon, the Bears laid down by choice. Against Stanford, the Bears were beaten down by force. And once Andrew Luck battered the Bears with his 58-yard scramble, cal was completely beaten. Take a bow, Cardinal…

Outside of that, no Random Pac-9 thoughts this week. It's all about Stanford regaining The Axe.

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CLARDY'S CORNER INBOX

Got a thought on this Corner? Drop me a line at my Scout.com inbox (username: troyc)... or e-mail me at troyc@thebootleg.com...

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PAC-9 PICKS

Any way I can finish 7-0? We're about to find out…

UCLA @ Arizona State. Arizona State's defense has the speed and the power to make life miserable on anyone's rushing attack. I don't see that trend stopping this Friday. Unless Vontaze Burfict goes MMA on the Bruins, I like Arizona State by 9.

Arizona @ Oregon. I don't care who you are. Not in that stadium. Not against that offense. Even though the Ducks seem to be slowing down just a little bit, I like Oregon by 18.

Washington @ cal. Somehow I don't think the Huskies have quite the capability to gash the Bears that Stanford does. Doesn't mean they won't make it interesting, though! I like Washington by 2.


Last week: 1-1 (straight-up), 1-1 (ATS).
This year: 18-11 (straight-up), 13-16 (ATS).
Last year: 25-11 (straight-up), 19-16-1 (ATS).

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Troy Clardy hosts the Stanford Daily Update, airing every weekday at 12:20pm and 4:20pm on Cardinal Sports Network flagship radio station XTRA Sports 860 in San Francisco, and available in podcast form at gostanford.com. If you're in Pittsburgh, you can also hear him weekends on 93.7 The Fan.

Clardy's Corner appears Wednesdays during the college football regular season on TheBootleg.com. You can also check him out online at TroyClardy.com, or e-mail him at troyc@thebootleg.com.


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