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Richard Sherman gives Georgia's Kelee Ringo a crash course in how to thrive as an NFL cornerback
By Chris Bumbaca, USA TODAY,
Richard Sherman took notice of the kid during their workouts. Also a cornerback, Sherman took the touted prospect under his wing, the three-time All-Pro showing the high schooler the ropes during several post-workout, impromptu training sessions.
The two exchanged numbers. But once the football season started, they largely lost touch.
Fast forward almost two years, and Sherman was watching the final minute of the 2021 national title game between Georgia and Alabama.
As Kelee Ringo sealed the Bulldogs' first national title in 41 years, with an interception return for a touchdown against Alabama last January, Sherman perked up. Wasn't that the kid he worked with?
“I’m (watching) like, ‘Wait a minute now! I know that ain’t…’ ” Sherman said. “It was a really cool moment.”
Ringo, who was a key starter on the 2022 Georgia team that repeated as national champs, enters the 2023 draft as one of the most polarizing defensive back prospects. Physically, there is no denying his gifts. Some analysts, however, are skeptical about aspects of his game, chiefly his anticipation.
"It's been great to learn from the legend himself," Ringo said at the NFL scouting combine earlier this month. "From technique wise to mental game, being able to see concepts. It definitely helped me grow as a man as well – outside of football things."
High schooler competing against NFL stars
Before Ringo was a two-time national champion and All-Southeastern Conference second team, he was a five-star prospect originally from Tacoma, Washington.
Ringo finished high school in Arizona and redshirted in 2020 while recovering from an injury. It was earlier that year, as the COVID-19 pandemic forced professional athletes to become creative in their training formats, he and Sherman first met at Ford Sports Performance in Bellevue, Washington.
"I just like to be helpful," Sherman told USA TODAY Sports. "You see kids that work out, train, you just want to help them best that you can."
With in-person organized team activities (OTAs) canceled, several Seattle-based players – pros, ex-pros, college players – worked out together in the area, Sherman said. There was DK Metcalf, Bobby Wagner, Tyler Lockett and Marquise Goodwin to name a few.
“He’s out here with NFL guys,” Sherman said, “he wasn’t even a college kid.”
'Fit right in'
Ringo's body type and confidence immediately stood out to Sherman. The youngster's technique was sloppy, but that was to be expected.
“To keep up with the guys he was competing against," Sherman said, "as a high school kid, was really impressive.”
At the gym, players participated in 7-on-7 drills to stay fresh, Sherman said. Not everything was full-speed all the time, but guys wanted to win.
Sherman had a front-row view of Ringo during those sessions. Once those were done, he and Ringo worked on technique, hand placement, footwork and release work. Sherman provided real-time feedback and passed along drills for Ringo to work on during his own training.
"He fit right in with the rest of us," Sherman said.
Focus on film study ahead of combine
Leading up to the combine, Sherman and Ringo began meeting again in Washington – usually twice a week, Sherman said.
There is more technique work. Together, they watch reels of film. They combed through Ringo's games against LSU, Alabama and Ohio State from this past season. Sherman showed him the rookie tape of the Denver Broncos' Patrick Surtain II and the New York Jets' Sauce Gardner, the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Prior to Indianapolis and Ringo's meetings with teams, Sherman "put him on the board" – the practice of a front office having a prospect diagram a play, scheme or coverage – and helped Ringo with route pattern recognition.
"How smart he is, how he slows the game down, of course," Ringo said of what Sherman has taught him. "I would definitely say that he makes things look a lot easier with definitely how smart he is specifically on seeing what's going to happen to him, specifically what an offensive coordinator wants to be able to do to him in the game."
Sherman coaching up Ringo's deficiencies
A typical conversation between Sherman and Ringo during a film session might go something like this, the former said.
Sherman: “Where are your eyes at?”
Ringo: “My eyes are here.”
Sherman: “Well, that’s not where they should be.”
On one play they reviewed, Sherman said, Ringo is blanketing a receiver. Then he starts to ball watch and stops playing the game. Sherman is trying to teach his protégé that a quarterback out of the pocket doesn’t mean to start drifting. Defending multiple routes on the same play at the next level is something that he needs to do.
“Find the closest to you, connect to him and then find the quarterback again and defend that,” Sherman instructed.
Ringo stands at 6-foot-2 and weighs 207 pounds, according to his combine measurements. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.36 seconds.
Nothing about his testing should give NFL teams pause, Sherman said.
“For him, he has the physical makeup," Sherman said. "It’s his understanding of where he is on the field or putting his body – being connected.”
“His flaws are easily correctable. You can’t say that about everybody in the draft – or in the league.”
Kelee Ringo comparison? Patrick Peterson
The ideal version of himself, Ringo said, is a combination of players he admires. He wants to be an technician like Darrelle Revis, a 2023 Hall of Fame inductee. He wants to be physical like Jalen Ramsey of the Miami Dolphins , a heavier cornerback like himself.
Ringo also wants to be explosive like Patrick Peterson, who Sherman feels is the most natural comparison for Ringo. Both have similar physical gifts, Sherman said, although Peterson was "a little freakier."
They also match up "even in terms of technique" at this point in their careers.
"Because Pat’s technique early on – he’d tell you the same – was sloppy and inconsistent," Sherman said. "But he was an incredibly gifted athlete who made up for it."
Ringo no flash in pan, Sherman says
Ringo is grateful to have someone like Sherman in his corner.
"It definitely helps a lot more to have those connections and know a lot more people because you're able to use these assets it definitely helps you with specifically whatever you want," he said.
Teams haven't contacted Sherman about Ringo, but he is sure Ringo interviewed well.
"He’s such a locked-in kid ... that’s what I appreciate, because that’s what you’re going to need to be successful," Sherman said. "You can be a flash in the pan and do everything you want and party and go out and do all of that. But it’s not sustainable. I want a guy who’s gonna grind and work and be consistent year after year after year. That’s who he is."