Richard Sherman's final season at Stanford happened to be the first for Derek Mason, the newly hired head coach of Vanderbilt who started out as the Cardinal's secondary coach in 2010.
During that season, Sherman, now a star cornerback with the Seattle Seahawks, said Mason played a critical role in his development as a defensive player. Sherman actually started out as a wide receiver, but made the switch to cornerback in 2009. Now generally regarded as one of the NFL's top corners, Sherman said Mason was instrumental in helping him make the transition.
"He was essential to my development and my understanding of the game," Sherman said in an interview with The Tennesseean. "He taught me how to play the game, how to study the game, how to really go in-depth with your film study and also understanding your weaknesses -- studying your weaknesses and what you do well and what you don't do well and being able to self-scout a lot more. ... He's really helped me, and he still helps me to this day."
Under Mason's watch, Stanford's secondary recorded 18 interceptions in 2010, including four by Sherman, who went on to be selected in the fifth round by Seattle in the 2011 draft. Mason was promoted to associate head coach and co-defensive coordinator in 2011, before becoming the sole defensive coordinator in 2012.
Mason was introduced as Vanderbilt's head coach in January, replacing James Franklin, who is now head coach at Penn State. Mason wasn't lacking in confidence at his news conference, proclaiming, "SEC East title, here we come. Make no bones about it. You've got to talk about it to make it happen."
Sherman, for one, believes Mason is the right man to take over for the Commodores, who went 24-15 the past three seasons under Franklin, including three straight bowl appearances.
"I think he'll be fantastic," Sherman said. "I think the guys will really connect with him well. I think he'll have a great defensive game plan at all times, and playing in the SEC and coaching in the SEC, I am sure he'll be able to get some great talent. I'm really happy for him. I'm really excited."