JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Richard Sherman plays cornerback. Earl Thomas plays safety.
Sherman calls Southern California home. Thomas’ love of Texas runs deep.
Sherman heard his name in the fifth round. Thomas went with the 14th overall choice.
Sherman loves speaking his mind. Thomas is more reserved.
Yet, the Seattle Seahawks’ defensive backs share a lot.
Sherman and Thomas are candidates for the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, which the NFL announces Saturday night, as proud members of the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary.
“The central theme is competition, and it is crazy that two guys on the same defense are even up for this award,” Thomas, a UT product, said Wednesday. “It’s just a blessing.”
Seattle had the league’s No. 1 defense in scoring (14.4), yards allowed (273.6), passing yards allowed (172.0) and total interceptions (28). The Broncos set an NFL record for points (37.9 per game), led the league in total offense (457.3) and Peyton Manning set NFL records for passing yards (5,477) and touchdown passes (55). The Broncos had an NFL-record five players with at least 10 touchdowns from scrimmage.
It is a matchup made in football heaven.
The No. 1 offense last faced the No. 1 defense in the Super Bowl to end the 1990 season, when the defensive-minded Giants beat the Bills’ “K-Gun” offense in XXV.
“It’s historically as hard as it gets. It can’t get any tougher,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of his team’s task. “They’ve done everything — broken every major record in the throwing game, points and everything. Peyton’s been extraordinary. … People couldn’t even dream to have the year that Peyton’s had before this season with all the numbers. We’re up against it.
“It’s an extraordinary challenge, but we know we have a good defense and good guys who can play over there. They understand what we want to get done. We’re going to see how this matchup goes. They have to play us, too.”
Deion Sanders called Seattle’s secondary the best ever — high praise from arguably the best cornerback ever. The Seahawks have backed up Sanders’ claim, even nicknaming themselves.
The Legion of Boom began during a radio appearance by strong safety Kam Chancellor in August 2012 during training camp. Chancellor commented that the Seahawks’ defensive backs liked to “bring the boom” on opponents.
The Seattle radio show held a poll, and “Legion of Boom” — a play off the band of supervillains in DC Comics’ “Legion of Doom” animated series — won approval from Seahawks fans and Sherman.
“All the fans were listening and came up with a lot of names for us,” Chancellor said. “We saw ‘Legion of Boom’ and it was pretty catchy. Legion sounds pretty important, and boom was how we play, so it was the name we ran with. Before the name, we were always connected as a brotherhood. It was already there. The trust, the preparation we all had, the drive, the passion, and the Legion of Boom was just the icing on the cake.”
The Seahawks’ defenders have embraced the name, and it has caught on much like other nicknames of great defensive groups. One day, Legion of Boom might stand alongside the Fearsome Foursome, Doomsday, the Steel Curtain and the Purple People Eaters.
“The Legion of Boom is a legacy,” Sherman said. “It’s a legacy; it’s a group; it’s a legion; it’s a vast army of individuals, and we have countless bodies behind us that are more than capable of doing the job. It’s Kam Chancellor, the enforcer, the punisher, the guy who sets the tone for the defense; it’s Earl Thomas, the fastest guy on the field, the most knowledgeable, who understands everything; it’s Byron Maxwell, making big play, after big play, after big play; it’s Walter Thurmond, doing a heck of a job playing disciplined, sound football.
“I think it’s our identity, and it sets a high standard, and it’s a standard that I think everybody is more than capable of living up to and has.”