What a Year. What a Team. What’s Next.
Life in the NFL is about tunnel vision, but forgive me for a moment while I step back, reflect on an incredible 2013 and appreciate our Super Bowl win and the teammates with whom I reached the pinnacle. We may not all be together much longer, after all
An incredible day. A blessed life. So much to be thankful for.
We work in a day-to-day business. To look beyond the next week sometimes means a loss of focus. When you win a Super Bowl, you can finally take the blinders off and think about all the things that got you there. For me, and for the Seattle Seahawks, the list is very long.
I’ll start with the happiest moment of my night, which lasted until early Monday morning: Hugging my mom and dad after the game. It was incredible to see the joy on their faces and how ecstatic the rest of my family was. My dad thanked me for getting him to the Super Bowl. When you make it here, you’re not alone; you take your family, your school and your neighborhood. You are a representation of everyone who helped you get to this stage.
It’s true, my father works a garbage route in L.A. and, obviously, he doesn’t have to. It’s one of the things that makes him my hero. He set a personal goal of making his pension, and he’s going to complete it no matter what. You say you’re going to do something, and then you do it.
I look around the room, at my teammates, and I see that same will. Percy Harvin faced all the criticism in the world while fighting back from injury, and arrived at the perfect moment, joining the offense that was built around him. At the beginning of the season, we hoped to use him on a variety of motion-sweep plays just like those he ran in Minnesota. Take the defense one way, run Marshawn at them the other way, like he’s our Adrian Peterson. Without Harvin, we were just biding time. With him, our offense is one of the NFL’s best.
I’m so happy for Russell Wilson, who put in all of the work and led this team to the Super Bowl. I’m happy for Chris Clemons and Cliff Avril. And I’m just as proud as the rest of our misfit crew: guys like Jeremy Lane and Chris Maragos who you may have never heard of. They’re stars on the Seattle Seahawks. I’m just as happy for Benson Mayowa, who went to a regional combine, then got invited to a rookie minicamp, then got invited to minicamp, made the team and sat on the bench, but he made the team and he gets a ring.
Somebody asked me before the game, what are the less obvious ways Pete Carroll’s fingerprints are on this team? I didn’t have an answer then, but I do now. During training camp, Carroll showed the defensive backs a video of Peanut Tillman punching and ripping the ball away from offensive players throughout his career. It’s what he’s most known for in the NFL. Pete asked us, “Who can do this?” It’s not for everybody. Earl Thomas and I can never seem to time it right. For weeks we were going around practice punching our running backs’ hands and stomachs. Byron Maxwell found out that he could do it. He timed it just right in Week 1, forcing a fumble of DeAngelo Williams. After that, he went on a dry spell. Then, months later, he did it in the Super Bowl with a perfect punch that will be a part of NFL history. There’s another feather in Pete Carroll’s cap.
I’ve been asked if there was ever any doubt we’d win this game, and I can honestly say no. As a team, when you’ve worked as hard as we did all season and prepared as long as we have, there’s no room to doubt yourself. Personally, I can remember the day I lost all self-doubt.
January 29, 2011. Mobile, Alabama. I went into the Senior Bowl as a late addition, which added to my anxiety over where I would be drafted. And then I got there, and I went to practice and everything changed. I looked around and I didn’t see anyone better than me. I started playing fast, looser. I decided to play the game on my terms. I danced and talked. I figured, if they don’t like you, they don’t like you. I stopped worrying about what round I was drafted in, but I continued to hear those who doubted my credentials.
I don’t know. For some reason, I love it. The No. 1 motivation throughout these playoffs and in the Super Bowl was doubt. Some said Denver’s offense would outgun us. They said nobody cares about defense anymore. Offense wins championships. But we took pride in being great and being No. 1 in a lot of categories. We wanted to cement our legacy as one of the best defenses to ever play in the NFL, and we did that.
Did we know we’d hold the Broncos to eight points in the Super Bowl? Honestly, we’re a little upset it wasn’t a shutout. Nobody put much stock in our 40-10 win over the Broncos in the preseason, but I did. Brandon Browner’s 106-yard touchdown return of a fumble made the game feel flukish to a lot of people, and nobody read between the lines. Nobody noticed our third-string defensive line, including Mayowa, going up against the Broncos starters and abusing them. What did you think would happen once they met Clemons and Avril?
As I begin to look beyond the game and down the road to next season, I want another title, and I realize some of the names I’ve mentioned—the men who got us here—won’t be around. Will they pay Michael Bennett what he deserves as a free agent? I don’t know. But make no mistake: We want the best for him, and if that means leaving Seattle, so be it. This is a business. I think about Brandon Browner, who I’ve talked to every week since he was suspended in December. I spoke with him right after the game by phone and he was completely thrilled for us. It’s hard to see a great teammate dealing with a tough time and knowing you can’t do anything to help. If the team doesn’t renew his contract, he will be missed.
Losing those guys would be a blow, but it wouldn’t be anything we couldn’t overcome. We’re a team of journeymen, full of guys nobody wanted—late-round picks, undrafted rookies and throwaway free agents. I want our legacy to be how dedicated we were, how much film we watched, how hard we worked.
As for my own legacy, know that I’ve grown as much as a man this season and specifically in the last month as I have in the last 10 years. I’ve figured out who I am, and the man I want to become, and the way I want to be remembered. I have to accept all of the outside pressures and all of the criticism and grow from it.
People have asked me about a life after football, and more than once I’ve been asked about a life in politics. Sorry, but it’s not for me. I want to stay around the game of football and teach as many kids as I can. I want kids to experience football as a gateway to visit places and see new things, the way it was for me. It’s been a gift from God to be able to play the game and understand it at a high level, and I think I need to share it.
But I’m not thinking too much about next year and beyond that yet. Like I’ve said, I’ve got my blinders off, and I’m going to appreciate this championship for just a little bit longer.