NFL Man Of The Year Nominees |


Richard Sherman



San Francisco 49ers Cornerback Richard Sherman, #67 on the NFL 100 Greatest Characters list, is an equally large character off the field, leading his teammates both on and off the field during his storied 9-year NFL career. He truly lives and shares the ideals of Inspire Change, working diligently to remove barriers to opportunity so every child has the ability to succeed. To support the economic and educational advancement for young people of color, Blanket Coverage, the Richard Sherman Family Foundation, equips students from low-income communities with the necessary tools for success. Since August, Richard has provided 16 low-income schools and over 2,500 students with backpacks and school supplies. By the end of the year, the foundation will fulfill their giving goal of 5,000 backpacks to underserved students. In recognition of the educators who mentor these students, he continues to provide six tickets to every Seahawks home game to nominated teachers and students, donating nearly 450 tickets since 2012. Blanket Coverage continuously stocks seven school pantries with nutritional snacks so their students never go hungry. Understanding the direct correlation between students' academic performance and hunger, he donated over $20,000 in October to the Tacoma School District to relieve the lunch debt of students who are receiving free or reduced lunch, what might be their only meal of the day. By the end of the 2019-20 school year, he will have donated $30,000 this year alone to Washington and Bay Area schools to alleviate the lunch debt of low-income students. Selected to lead the 49ers Social Justice Initiative's player's council, Richard and his teammates chose to support the Obama Foundation's MBK Rising event in February 2019. He gave the opening remarks and participated alongside youth leaders as they engaged in active dialogue and leadership trainings to ensure nothing stands in the way of boys and young men of color achieving their dreams. He has visited incarcerated youth at Santa Clara Juvenile Hall twice this season through Fresh Lifelines for Youth (FLY) and plans to continue his visits throughout the season to empower residents to change their narrative and channel their anger into positive avenues, accessing available resources to turn their lives around. One of FLY's main focuses is teaching youth involved in the juvenile justice system about the law and consequences of crime so they can make better choices in the future. Understanding that social justice has many layers, including community and police relations, his position group invited police officers to Training Camp through the 49ers Community Corner to show their appreciation. In addition to his foundation's efforts, Richard lends his support to the 49ers to expand their community outreach. At the 2019 49ers Foundation Players for a Purpose dinner, Richard welcomed donors by sharing his personal story of his humble beginnings, how he used education to fulfill his dreams, and stressed the importance of equal access to quality education, a pillar of the 49ers Foundation's mission. With his help, the foundation raised $588,000 that evening. While the team trained in Youngstown, Ohio, he joined students at Williamson Elementary, a Title I School, to teach principles of inclusion and anti-bullying in partnership with Sandy Hook Promise's Start with Hello programming.

Richard's efforts span from Seattle, the hometown of his wife, Ashley, down to his childhood roots in Compton, California. Blanket Coverage provides students in low-income communities with school supplies and clothing so they can achieve their goals. Beginning in 2013 with an operating budget of $50,000, Blanket Coverage has now helped over 70,000 students and raised more than $1.5 million. Blanket Coverage tackles current issues through annual programs. Recognizing the housing crisis in California and Seattle, Richard has provided over 7,100 care packs in the last three years to the homeless and has adopted more than 160 families during the holidays since 2013. Last year, he adopted youth homeless shelters in Seattle and San Jose, distributing everything from hygiene products and groceries to tablets and mattresses. Since 2014, Richard has donated $500 gift cards annually for holiday meals to 25 low-income families during Thanksgiving. Richard's parents instilled in him from an early age the importance of academics and the notion that you can achieve anything with hard work. As a result, he graduated from Dominguez High School in Compton with a 4.2 GPA. Since then, he has made education his primary passion and in 2017, he partnered with Microsoft to donate $20,000 worth of technology including computers and printers to his high school alma mater. Richard 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 Richard hosted over 2,000 families for a free day of family fun including a hot meal.

Over four years, he 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, Richard went a step further for 40 families, providing gift cards for future school supplies. Continuing his efforts in the social justice space, he 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 initiated the 49ers Social Justice Initiative's player's council decision to fund a grant, in partnership with, 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. Richard 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." While Richard's passion for education is unwavering, he continues to support a diverse array of causes. In December 2016, Blanket Coverage launched the 25 for 2,500 initiative, donating $2,500 to 25 different charities. The beneficiaries serve a range of missions including foster homes, pediatric cancer, families experiencing homelessness, grieving families who have lost a child, creative arts, military services and more.

In addition to the tens of thousands of tangible resources he has donated, Richard's impact is felt during intangible moments through his commitment to mentorship. He works under the radar tirelessly to encourage youth who come from tough backgrounds, not for the notoriety, but because he has a deep understanding of what they've been through having started there too. Those are the moments that truly define his character. In 2015, Richard visited 10 underserved schools, first speaking at a school wide assembly and then asking to meet with the kids who most needed guidance. He facilitated small group discussions and connected with the children through his own story of perseverance, which he used to encourage them to never give up. He stresses the importance of setting goals and how to achieve them. Oftentimes, Richard gives out his personal contact information to stay in touch with the students. In 2017, Richard, in partnership with The Players' Tribune, invited a group of professional athletes to speak to kids from the toughest parts of Los Angeles. The message remained the same, "Understand that anything is possible no matter where you come from. It doesn't matter where you start, you could be successful. You've got to believe in yourself more than anybody else will ever believe in you. Success is not a straight line. It's not an easy thing to accomplish. If you work hard and you wake up every day and think you've got a shot, then you'll do what you want to do." Known for his loud and impactful play on the field, Richard's smaller, quieter moments off the field have an even deeper impact. As a high school senior, Hershai James met Richard while attending an event hosted by his former teammate. Inspired by James' work ethic, Richard challenged her to improve her grades and achieve honor roll that year. In return, he'd give her a college scholarship. James is now a college student at Norfolk State with a scholarship and unwavering support from Sherman. Sherman was nominated by the Seahawks as their 2015 Walter Payton Man of the Year. In 2018, Richard's 49ers teammates awarded him with the Ed Block Courage Award. Starting first as a player representative, he is in his second term as Vice President of the NFLPA after being re-elected in 2018. In October 2019 he was honored by the United Negro College Fund, one of the NFL's Social Justice grantees, with the Frederick D. Patterson Individual of the Year award. This is the Fund's most prestigious award recognizing notable individuals in the Bay Area for their professional achievements who have also invested significant time and resources in support of the educational and lifelong development of children and youth.