Both players faced tough times while at Stanford. Baldwin nearly gave up football after being assigned to the scout team his junior year. Sherman switched from receiver to cornerback after a similarly challenging situation with then Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh. The shared experience brought the two players closer together.
Baldwin did not get drafted, and had his choice of 20+ teams to sign with as a free agent. Sherman’s presence in Seattle was part of what made Seattle his eventual choice.
“I know [Sherman] had been heavily on my bandwagon talking to [John] Schneider and Pete Carroll,” Baldwin said. “It definitely played a role in my decision.”
The two roomed together last season as rookies before Baldwin moved out earlier this year, but not because of any strain in the friendship.
“We’re two grown men,” Baldwin said. “It was just time to live on our own.”
The level of competitiveness under that roof had to be off the charts.
“We were like clones of each other [at Stanford],” Sherman said. “We played with anger and intensity.”
When asked who he would compare Sherman to, Baldwin offered a surprising name.
“As far as confidence goes, I’d compare him to Muhammad Ali,” Baldwin said. “They have similar mouth power, and both of them back it up out there.”
Pressed to come up with a football comparable for Sherman, Baldwin came up empty.
“Richard Sherman is in a class of his own,” Baldwin said. “He is one of the best corners I have ever faced. He has an uncanny ability to be in the right place at the right time. He is long, and sometimes looks goofy out there, but has phenomenal body control. There is nobody really in the league like him. He’s a phenomenal press corner, but is smart enough to read routes.”
The respect is mutual.
“I think [Baldwin] can be one of the best,” Sherman said. “He is only limited by how the team uses him. You can only catch balls thrown your way. He can play outside even though people think he’s just a slot receiver because he’s short. Steve Smith plays outside at his height, and Doug has a similar skill set. They’re both wearing #89 now, so people will really see the similarities.”
So you have a great cornerback and a great receiver. Hmm, who would win a one-on-one battle if they went 10 rounds?
“Sherm would probably say 50/50, 5 out of 10 for each of us,” Baldwin said. “The truth is I would win 8 or 9 out of 10.”
“Nah. He would not win 8 or 9 out of 10. I would never let him do that,” Sherman said. “I could win 10 out of 10, but on 7 out of the 10, he would throw his hands up and call [pass interference].”
Two kids, separated by 3000 miles, growing up in Florida and California, somehow found each other and became close friends. They have struggled together, and won together. Now, they are living out their NFL dreams together. It may not be a true father and son combination, but their shared traits seem almost genetic. Both players had almost impossibly impressive rookie seasons. They made an impact so quickly that it is hard to believe they will only be entering their second seasons. Wide receiver and cornerback are two positions that tend to struggle as rookies in the NFL before making a large jump in year two. If a large jump is in store for Sherman and Baldwin, they will go from surprising late-round or undrafted additions to two of the best players on a talented Seahawks roster.