NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — Danny Trevathan won't forget the doubters, no matter how many plays he makes or games he wins.
The linebacker will start in the Super Bowl at age 23, the Denver Broncos' leading tackler in just his second season in the league. Yet he can still recite the knocks on his pro potential from before the draft, saying he wants to "show them up."
This is the seemingly contradictory mentality of a successful NFL player — a simultaneous superiority and inferiority complex. To Richard Sherman's peers, his televised rant moments after the NFC championship game makes perfect sense. These guys require supreme self-assurance to do their job, but they also need motivation to push themselves through the grind of workouts and the strain of games.
"When you're playing against athletes like this who could really take your head off or really outrun you, if you're not confident, you ain't going to last long in this league," said Sherman's counterpart on the Seahawks' defense, linebacker Bobby Wagner. "At the same time, a lot of players, they've got a story. Somebody has told them they couldn't do something, so that's the chip on their shoulder."
Sherman, a 2011 fifth-round draft pick, lugs around one of the biggest chips on a unit loaded with them. The cornerback's outburst after making the win-clinching play against the 49ers was partly sparked by something the receiver he was defending, Michael Crabtree, said to him during the offseason, though Sherman wouldn't reveal exactly what infuriated him.
Real or perceived, past slights can fuel the kind of passionate play it takes to win in a hard-hitting game.
"You need that edge," Seattle offensive tackle Russell Okung said. "That's what makes us so good. Guys are very resilient. They've come through a lot."
Trevathan, a sixth-round pick, remembers that scouts deemed him too small. Wagner, a second-rounder, supposedly wasn't tough enough.
Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie recalls the skepticism he had to overcome as a player from a Football Championship Subdivision school.
"That's always going to stick with me," the Broncos cornerback said.
And he was a first-round selection.
Big contracts, postseason honors, championships — for many players, none of that wipes out their conviction that they have something to prove.