LAKE FOREST – If you take a close look, he reminds you of one of the more prominent defensive players in the NFL the last decade.
Yes, the do kinda look alive, but it’s Stephen Denmark’s journey that draws the most resemblance to four-time Pro Bowl selection and three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
“I look up to him,” said Denmark at Bears’ rookie camp last weekend of Sherman. “We’ve got a lot of similarities because he played receiver and switched too.”
That’s really where the connection for the Bears’ 7th-round draft pick comes in, because the change that Sherman made late in his career at Stanford has led to a standout tenure in the NFL with both the Seahawks and the 49ers. A receiver for the Cardinal, Sherman requested a switch to cornerback after his 2008 season came to an end after four games due to a knee injury.
Sherman has six interceptions the next two years at Stanford, and was drafted in the fifth round of the 2011 NFL Draft by the Seahawks, and the rest is history.
“He played receiver and switched, too. We’re both pretty much the same size,” said Denmark of Sherman. “I’d say the overall game, just try to emulate it..well, take some of his game and make it fit me.”
Denmark followed a similar path to get notoriety while at Division-II Valdosta State, as he played receiver during his first three years at the school. After seeing the field in just four games and making just one catch for 11 yards in 2017, he made the switch to cornerback. That led to success as he made 32 tackles while making three interceptions and deflecting nine passes.
That added to his natural athleticism, which along with his 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame garnered some attention from NFL teams. At his pro day, Denmark had 4.43 40-yard dash time and 43.5-inch vertical jump, which put him on the Bears’ radar as they took him with the final pick of their draft in April.
“There’s a lot of 6-3, 220 receivers, but there’s not a lot of 6-3, 220 cornerbacks at all, really, So I felt like this was the better…to get to this spot, I think that was the best move for me,” said Denmark of his move to cornerback,
It certainly worked, as Denmark joins a defense already loaded with talent, and will take the rookie camp this past weekend, Now he has the next few months of offseason workouts and training camp to earn a spot on the team. While he certainly respects and tries to model his game after Sherman, Denmark knows all too well the work that’s ahead to get even close to that level.
“Athletically, I’m raw, but I know I’ve got a lot of technique stuff to work on so I can become a professional cornerback,” said Denmark.
But like one of his football idols, he made the switch, and a world of opportunities in the game has opened up because of it.