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Richard Sherman
Richard Sherman. Photo via Seattle Seahawks.

In case you’ve been living under a rock the last week, Richard Sherman has been everywhere in the media. It started when the Seattle Seahawks made a game saving and ultimately winning play to beat the rival San Francisco 49ers in about as dramatic a fashion as possible — an interception in the end zone with less that 30 seconds to play.

Boom. Game Over.

The Seahawks are in the Super Bowl and Richard Sherman was the man on the final play (with a nice assist from Malcolm Smith to finish off the interception).

Then the world exploded. Immediately following the game, Sherman gave the 21-second interview that shocked the world. In his post-win elation, he proclaimed to be the best cornerback in the game (he is, with a hat tip to Patrick Peterson) and that Michael Crabtree is mediocre (debatable).

The sports world — and the rest of the world — were not ready for this kind of unfiltered brashness/honesty/cockiness…whatever you want to call it.

Was it really so bad? The ensuing debate on interview etiquette, humility in a sportsman, racism in America was as heated as you could expect for January’s cold vortex. Sherman was labeled a thug, a loud mouth and many other things we will leave out here.

This was THE story for the first few days. But then the story changed.

Video thumbnail for youtube video Good timing: Richard Sherman's post-game trash-talk was excellent marketing for BeatsThings started to come out about Richard Sherman, the 3rd year corner, defensive player of the year candidate, Stanford graduate, Compton native and human being. Diehard Seattle sports fans already know that Sherman is a charismatic, philanthropic, team-first, work-hard, study-hard, do-things-right kinda guy, who also happens to be one of the best and most prodigious trash talkers in the game.

These are the reasons we love him. Not to mention that fact that he backs it up by being the best cornerback in football and still on his rookie contract ($555,000 for 2013). But now the rest of the world knows these things too.

Despite three days of absolutely terrible press and social media attention, Sherman is on a track to be one of the most well-known, respected and well-paid players in football. His play alone may have gotten him there eventually, but with his mouth he got there immediately.

Sherman is the only defensive player among the NFL’s top 10 selling jerseys. All of this is not by accident. Sherman’s raw talent, hard-work and marketing moxie have gotten him here.

Here are the Top 13 lessons entrepreneurs can learn from the marketing and product genius that is Richard Sherman:

sherman-jersey1) Work harder than everyone else.

2) Put yourself in a position to be successful. You can’t make great plays if you aren’t in the right place at the right time. Manufacture serendipity.

3) Teach your teammates and learn from them along the way.

4) The quality of your product trumps everything else. Without the strongest possible foundation of quality, even with great media attention, investor attention etc., you will eventually get exposed and it won’t be pretty.

5) Where you are from doesn’t matter. Whether it’s Compton or a non-startup-friendly town, you define your outcomes, not your surroundings.

6) Take advantage of great opportunities when they come your way. Stanford, that incubator, etc. Whatever great opportunity you earned, don’t be scared to take what you earned and use it to your advantage.

7) Be humble, almost always.

8) Pivoting can lead to greatness. Richard Sherman stopped being a wide receiver because he made a better corner. Instagram was better than Burbn. You get the picture.

9) Be brash once in a while. Along with your humility, bring a little swagger. You are a small fish in a big pond, so don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself, otherwise no one will hear you.

10) Play to your strengths. Find what you are best at the in the world and do way more of it.  For Sherman, that’s defending the deep vertical.

11) If you are going to talk trash, make sure your game backs it up.

12) A great product may be enough to get you to where you want to go. But a great product AND brilliant marketing will make it happen fast.

13) MOST IMPORTANTLY: Do things the right way. Even if no one is looking, always take the high road. If things go well, you will eventually be under a microscope and you will want to be proud of what is underneath.

Thanks Richard Sherman for these lessons and GO HAWKS. U MAD BRO?

Related: Seattle’s startup scene masters Beast Mode, could use a little Richard Sherman swagger

Joey Kotkins is the co-founder and chief marketing officer at Inside Social, a Seattle social media analytics startup. 

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