One can just imagine the trash talking that went on midway through training camp between Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman and his August nemesis, teammate and wide receiver Doug Baldwin.
There’s nowhere else in the NFL where you’ll find two stars of the game hurling insults while referencing noted 19th-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche, or an earlier philosophy pioneer, Immanuel Kant. Kant? Kant? Who you saying can’t?
But the two Stanford Cardinal-turned-Seahawks have as much of a nose for the books as a nose for the ball, and it’s no surprise they remain two of coach Pete Carroll’s darlings.
Baldwin was a wiz at Gulf Breeze High School in Florida, a National Honors Society inductee who maintained a fantastic grade-point average. Similarly, Sherman shined at Compton’s Dominguez High School, where he sported a 4.2 GPA and was named salutatorian.
Imagining their verbal sparring, it’s like two heavyweights trading barbs. Tyson vs. Tyson, only the words make sense.
“Obviously, tempers flare,” Baldwin told the Tacoma News-Tribune’s Gregg Bell at the time. “Sherm’s really upset that we keep destroying him in practice. He’s upset that the receivers are getting the best out of him and the defensive backs this year. So he takes offense to that.”
Come the regular season, Sherman will be on the defensive, but Baldwin will be torturing a different crop of cornerbacks, and Carroll will be flashing that megawatt smile of his.
All of his work has come to fruition for the wily Seahawks coach, who has crafted the team to his liking, packing the roster with Pac-12 players.
In 2010, his first draft with Seattle, Carroll drafted three players from the conference he was so intimately familiar with as head coach of USC from 2000-2009. In 2011 he added two more, including Sherman, while Baldwin signed as an undrafted free agent. Carroll stayed away from the conference for two seasons before selecting five Pac-12 players in the last three drafts. According to an SBNation.com breakdown of the NFL Draft, the Seahawks were nearly 50 percent more likely to draft a Pac-12 player than another NFL team.
As of Sept. 1, the Seahawks roster included 15 players from the Pac-12; the Detroit Lions, for example, only had six on their roster for six. The Lions did have enough room for products of The Citadel, Incarnate Word, George Southern, South Dakota State, Hampton and Azusa Pacific, however.
But when it works for you – as it has for the 2014 Super Bowl champion Seahawks – you stick with it.
Carroll struck the mother lode with the Stanford duo, which is no surprise seeing as Palo Alto is near Gold Rush territory.
Sherman has become one of – if not the – best cornerbacks in the league, leading the Legion of Boom defensive backfield that has become the standard of the NFL.
Baldwin exploded onto the scene last season, catching 78 passes for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns, including a seven-game stretch in November-December that yielded 42 grabs, 673 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He entered this offseason with his status as a starter locked up, emerging as the Seahawks’ No. 1 target.
“Doug [Baldwin], across the board, has just been at a higher level,” Carroll told ESPN Seattle 710 midway through offseason. “And a more focused, tuned-in, clear-eyed perspective.”
It appears that all that familiarity has bred camaraderie, and certainly success.
And only every so often, contempt.
“I’ll admit it: I’m kind of an agitator in that, at times,” Baldwin said. “But it’s because we need it. We don’t like it just to be peas and carrots all the time in practice. We want to bring out that competitive nature. We want to see the dog in guys so we can bring out the best in their abilities.”