NEWARK, N.J. – Richard Sherman has been on his best behavior since his infamous post-NFC championship game interview but one of his Super Bowl opponents hopes the Seattle Seahawks cornerback quickly rediscovers his sharp tongue.
Denver Broncos safety Duke Ihenacho's personality is seemingly in contrast with Sherman's. He is a soft-spoken 24-year-old not known for publicly referring to a rival as me-di-ocre.
Ihenacho, however, loved Sherman's explosive interview with Fox reporter Erin Andrews that dominated the social media universe and led to a storm of equally impassioned discussion. Ihenacho admitted he admired the forthright nature of the rant, even if it is something he would likely never do himself.
"I just figure if you can back it up and you are not harming anyone – he was not cheating or anything – speak whatever you want to speak," Ihenacho said. "It rubbed people the wrong way but that's what's real and that's raw and that's how it really is. So I don't have a problem with it."
Ihenacho grew up in Carson, Calif., a few miles down the road from Sherman's childhood home in Compton. He appreciates the struggles the Seahawks' defensive standout went through to forge a professional career.
Sherman was disappointed to drop to the fifth round in the 2011 draft and has carried a chip on his shoulder ever since. Ihenacho was a projected fourth-round pick out of San Jose State a year later but went undrafted altogether and spent time on the Broncos' practice squad last season before establishing himself as a key defensive contributor in 2013.
Having also come from the Los Angeles area – though "not quite as rough as where he is from" – Ihenacho understands the concept of young men from working class backgrounds needing to develop a certain degree of toughness.
When Sherman started coming under fire for his rant aimed at San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Michael Crabtree, Ihenacho took to Twitter to issue a stout defense of a man he barely knows on a personal basis.
"We are so used to sugarcoating and lying that when someone keeps it all the way honest, we are turned off by it," read one of his Tweets. Ihenacho was angered when some of the subsequent abuse aimed at Sherman contained inappropriate, and in some cases, racist undertones.
"I just think that people have opinions and a lot of people need to keep their opinions to themselves," he said. "I don't agree with all the things he was called but that is the world we live in.
"I experienced my fair share of that kind of upbringing. You have got to have thick skin and be competitive and people are not always going to like the things you have to say."
[Related: Sherman hushes critics at media day]
Ihenacho is determined to enjoy Super Bowl week and to make the most of the opportunity he has earned. His personal approach is to distance himself from the intensity of the occasion until game day, take a back seat and enjoy watching the weeklong show just like any fan would.
That is why he can appreciate Sherman, even with the biggest game of his life just days away and the former Stanford star on the opposite side of the field.
"Everyone is a little different," Ihenacho added. "It doesn't mean he is right or he's wrong. People handle situations different. That is how he handled it and I don't think anything is wrong with it. I think it is part of the fun of the NFL. It is entertainment, he is a smart guy so he knows what he is doing."
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