Jerramy Stevens’ bad-boy image ain’t no image

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comNovember 15, 2012 

As Shakespeare pointed out, the course of true love never did run smooth.

But when a young couple’s wedding-eve party raises reports of a bloody eight-person altercation and the firing of a stun gun, and the prospective groom is carted off on suspicion of domestic assault, it seems to somewhat reduce the likelihood of long-term marital bliss.

When the principles include a two-time Olympic gold medalist and a former NFL bad boy, the incident becomes tawdry tabloid fodder.

I’ve held for some time that Jerramy Stevens surrendered his relevance – along with his career – in a series of civic endangerments, squandered second-chances and chronic cluelessness. Our limited space is better devoted to the achievers, those who are breaking the records rather than those breaking the rules.

But the former Seattle Seahawks and University of Washington tight end once again attracts the spotlight because of his newly public relationship with fellow Huskies alum Hope Solo, goalkeeper for the U.S. women’s soccer team.

Reports hold that police were called to a disturbance at a Kirkland home early Monday morning, and Stevens was suspected of assaulting Solo, supposedly after an argument over where they would reside after the wedding. Stevens, a graduate of River Ridge High School in Lacey, was ultimately released based on a lack of evidence.

You can search the internet for the more salacious details, along with accounts of Stevens’ criminal history. Aside from the lengthy rap sheet of reckless driving, DUI and possession, you will find a Seattle Times investigation published in 2008 that strongly connects Stevens with behavior far more sinister than moving violations.

Of course, his history doesn’t negate the assumption of innocence in this incident.

Any case of domestic violence warrants close scrutiny. That Solo stands as a role model to thousands of young women around the world, and Stevens has a checkered history, though, elevates the attention this will receive.

As of Wednesday afternoon, some reports arose that the case was still under investigation, while others suggested that Solo and Stevens had gone ahead with the marriage anyway.

Regardless the outcome of the most recent incident, we can look back, and it appears that Stevens has been protected for years by a series of apologists and enablers – some out to exploit his talents, others well- intended.

I was taken in, too. I’ve stood in front of his locker and heard him give a convincing discourse that he was sincerely changed and matured and had his life and career in order. I bought it. I wrote it.

Mike Holmgren invested considerable professional equity in Stevens’ promises. Back in 2002, Holmgren was both coach and general manager of the Seahawks, and he was in need of a tight end. Although Stevens was outrageously gifted physically, his off-field behavior was so well-known that most teams backed away.

On draft day, Holmgren addressed the risks of taking Stevens with the team’s first-round draft pick.

“We liked him very much as a football player; we have done a lot of work ... analyzing the situation,” Holmgren said. On the phone with Stevens moments before drafting him, Holmgren told him: “I need a couple promises from you.”

Stevens assured him he’d be a choir boy. After making the pick, Holmgren said: “This is going to work; we’re committed to making this work, and I believe that he is, too.”

Holmgren was concerned enough that he insisted there be language in Stevens’ contract that forced him to repay a portion of his signing bonus if he got in further legal trouble.

“It protects the club a little bit,” Holmgren explained. “And, in my opinion, helps Jerramy as well because there’s a little added incentive to walk the straight and narrow.”

When he instead drove a twisted path, Stevens had to forfeit $300,000 back to the team.

The impact of Holmgren’s decision to take the chance could not be recovered by getting into Stevens’ checkbook. The Hawks came into the draft with the 20th pick in the first round. Holmgren traded down with Green Bay, though, giving up the 20th and 156th for the 28th and 60th pick. With 28, they took Stevens.

Had they stayed at 20, they might have selected Miami safety Ed Reed, who has gone to eight Pro Bowls. The Packers, with that pick, took receiver Javon Walker, who made one Pro Bowl. And with 156, the Packers drafted linebacker Aaron Kampman (two Pro Bowls), while the Hawks wasted the 60th pick on a lowly regarded defensive end from UNLV, Anton Palepoi, who would start only one game in his three seasons with Seattle.

At the end of that 2002 season, Holmgren was relieved of his general manager duties.

Stevens would play five seasons with the Hawks and finish with a modest 15 touchdown receptions. His three drops in Super Bowl XL, however, stand as perhaps the most lasting memory of his on-field efforts.

Holmgren’s assessment of Stevens was so confident at the start.

“I think this young man has a tremendous upside,” Holmgren said. “He can be about as good as he wants to be.”

Ten years later, we’ve seen little evidence he wants to be.

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com @DaveBoling

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