Friday, April 28, 2017

The White Cornerback (Or Not)

One weekday in August 2012, when the NFL regular season was approaching and rosters were being winnowed, first-year Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson called a stretch play during an 11-on-11 practice. A rookie cornerback wearing number 38 chased the play from the back side and with speed that Seattle had just clocked at 4.38 in the 40-yard dash, dragged running back Robert Turbin down for no gain.

On the next play No. 38 broke up a 40-yard fade down the opposite sideline. A few snaps later he snuffed out a slant route, slapping Wilson’s spiral into the FieldTurf with an emphatic whap-bomp. Richard Sherman liked the first two plays, but the slant is what launched Seattle’s second-year cornerback from the sideline, his yet-to-be-famous dreads flying, Donny Lisowski thinking he’d died and gone to football heaven as coach Pete Carroll’s hip‑hop selections scored the scene from speakers taller than Donny.

“I see you!” Sherman yelled, leaning backward and nodding at the white cornerback. “They don’t see you, but I see you!”

Born and raised in Seattle, the 28-year-old Lisowski will always remember the summer of 2012, when he had the Seahawks’ practice facility buzzing. He wore the same surging bird decal on his helmet that Marshawn Lynch wore on his. He lined up for DB drills behind his favorite player growing up, Marcus Trufant. He earned the respect of Carroll and his assistants, men he said were first-class in all of their communications with him. But as those summer days turned into months—then years—of solo workouts and precisely zero phone calls from other NFL teams, Lisowski couldn’t help but wonder whether there had been an invisible force at play in his career.

All 64 starting cornerbacks in the NFL are black. So are their backups. One hundred-sixty black cornerbacks, give or take. Not a single white one. It’s been this way for more than 10 years.

by Michael McKnight, ESPN |  Read more:
Image: Bettina Hansen/The Seattle Times