In Seattle, the secondary comes first

But in Chancellor's first month as a starter in 2011, he was no longer anonymous. The Seahawks were playing Arizona. Chancellor delivered a punishing block that sent tight end Todd Heap flying. Chancellor was flagged, and both teams started jawing. The Legion of Boom was taking shape. Fueled by perceived slights, buoyed by a newfound friendship, the secondary took off. Chancellor, Thomas and Browner wound up on the Pro Bowl roster, and they brought Sherman along to Hawaii to share in their moment.

"I embrace that I was drafted in the fifth round," Chancellor said. "I think it was a blessing. It happened for a reason. I'm out here in Seattle doing what I do, doing what I love to do and getting paid for it."

Former Seahawks cornerback Shawn Springs said their fun is evident, and this secondary reminds him of the great Washington Redskins defensive backfields he played on in the 2000s with LaRon Landry, Carlos Rogers and the late  Sean Taylor.

"We used to have a competition amongst ourselves because we all felt like we were the best," Springs said. "And I have to feel like those guys feel the same way. Nobody wants to be the weak link. You feed off that energy.

"It's exciting to see the Seahawks' success run through those guys. It's amazing to see how those guys have really transformed that city."

In 2011, when it became clear to Sherman that he was being snubbed in the draft, he made a promise to himself. If he had to be a late-rounder, if he had to make less money and play with fewer guarantees, he was going to do things his way, talking and walking with swagger.

"And if they're going to cut me," Sherman told himself at the time, "and not let me play the game like this, then that's just how it's going to be."

Sherman has certainly expressed his individuality. There was the Twitter feud he started with Tampa Bay cornerback Darrelle Revis, in which Revis tweeted Sherman should "Sit down young pup & wait your turn." There was the Optimus Prime nickname Sherman took on before his matchup with Detroit receiver Calvin Johnson, and the repeated taunting of Brady, a future Hall of Famer. Sherman recently compiled a list of the five smartest quarterbacks for Sports Illustrated. He did not include Brady in the list.

But Sherman has always made sure he could back up his words. He was talking trash before he hit puberty. His high school coach, Keith Donerson, tried to get him to stop once, and it was, hands-down, the worst week of practice and led to the worst game Sherman ever had. At halftime of that game, Donerson relented. "Man, just go out there and be yourself," he told Sherman. If Sherman couldn't talk smack, couldn't motivate himself and everyone around him, he just wasn't the same player.

Carroll, who was at USC when Sherman was coming out of Dominguez High in Compton, Calif., tried to sign him. But Sherman wanted to play receiver (he played defensive back and receiver in high school). And more importantly, he wanted to be the first athlete from Compton to graduate from Stanford.

So he became a Cardinal, and felt stifled when Jim Harbaugh arrived in 2007. Sherman eventually switched over to the defense, away from Harbaugh, in a move that would finally bring him together with Carroll in 2011.

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