Packers players happy for former coach Sherman
So excited was the Packers cornerback that he had trouble finishing a bite of the salad he was eating. He vowed to call right away.
“I think the world of coach Sherman, man,” Harris said Monday. “He stuck his neck out for me, and I’m forever grateful. He’s one coach that I’ve played for that had total confidence in me, no matter what, and I think he’s going to do a great job. I think they hired the right man for the job.”
Harris blossomed into one of the NFL’s top cornerbacks under Sherman, who traded with Philadelphia to bring Harris to Green Bay in 2003. But their bond goes well beyond football, as Sherman provided support during a difficult time for Harris off the field.
In 2004, Sherman was the first person Harris spoke to after his girlfriend had a miscarriage.
“I was here, and my girl had a miscarriage,” Harris said. “I came and I talked to coach Sherman about it. He was like, ’Just go home, take the day off.’ I ended up practicing that day anyway. But when you can go to a guy and talk to him about things like that, it sticks with you. I consider coach Sherman a friend.”
Even with a 10-1 record and their toughest game of the season looming at Dallas Thursday night, several Packers players went out of their way to express happiness for their former coach on Monday.
Packers linebacker Nick Barnett said he was “proud” of Sherman.
“I think he’s a very disciplined coach, and he definitely is a good leader,” Barnett said. “He has a way of getting guys to follow him, and understanding why he’s doing what he’s doing. If those guys down there just follow him, I think he will lead them to a place they want to be.”
Harris knows that Sherman had a reputation for being somewhat aloof, particularly during his trying final few seasons leading up to his firing after the 2005 season. But Harris felt comfortable turning to his coach when he didn’t have anybody else to talk to.
“I didn’t want to burden anybody else with my problems and whatnot, so I just went up and talked to coach Sherman,” Harris said.
How did it all work out?
“We ended up making a baby,” Harris said. “He was happy about that.”
That wasn’t the only time Harris ended up turning to Sherman for advice.
“But there were some other things that happened,” Harris said. “As soon as I caught wind of it, I called coach Sherman. Like ‘Coach, look, this is what’s going on,’ or whatever. I’ve got a lot of respect (for him). I think of coach Sherman as a friend.”
Most people in Green Bay thought of Sherman as a formidable football coach and an admirable person – but a poor evaluator of talent.
Sherman was 57-39 over six seasons in Green Bay, leading the Packers to three consecutive division titles.
But the Packers gave Sherman general manager responsibilities after Ron Wolf retired in 2001, and it proved to be too much. The Packers stripped Sherman of general manager duties after several questionable personnel decisions and hired general manager Ted Thompson before the 2005 season.
Thompson then fired Sherman after the Packers went 4-12, and hired Mike McCarthy.
But the strong sense of player loyalty that might have led to Sherman’s undoing in the NFL might end up being one of his strongest assets in a college setting.
“I think he cares about young men,” Packers defensive end Aaron Kampman said. “I think even here, even though it was professional ranks, I think that he still had his guys that he wanted to see do well after football, things like that. I think he’ll do a great job. I think that’s really one of the critical components of being a successful college coach, caring about your student-athletes.”
And Kampman figures Sherman’s NFL experience will be an asset when it comes to attracting talented players to A&M.
“It’ll greatly enhance his recruiting and all that stuff,” Kampman said.
Harris still talks to Sherman occasionally, most recently just before training camp. The message, Harris said, never changes.
“He’s always the same: ’Al, go out, work hard, do what you do, and everything will be OK,”’ Harris said.