RENTON — All Ryan Longwell has to do now is kick the winning field goal in this Sunday’s NFC divisional playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons to make the story complete.
The previous Sunday evening, he was sitting on his couch in Orlando, Fla., thinking about the upcoming Walt Disney World Marathon that he and his wife were scheduled to run this weekend.
A day later, he was at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex where he was among four players trying out for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
On Tuesday, he was introduced as the new kicker for the Seattle Seahawks, replacing the injured Steven Hauschka, who was placed on injured reserve with a strained calf muscle.
It’s been a whirlwind for the 15-year veteran, who has spent this season working out and hoping for another chance in the NFL. He’s passed on a few opportunities, but this one felt right.
Because in a way, Longwell is coming home.
Born in Seattle and raised for a good portion of his youth in Puyallup before moving to Bend, Ore., in ninth grade, Longwell grew up following Jim Zorn and Steve Largent and cheering on the Seahawks.
“It’s kind of fun to come full
circle and be back here and hopefully help this team win,” Longwell said.
The Puget Sound roots run deep in Longwell. He went to Seahawks games in the Kingdome with his grandfather. Now he will be kicking for them.
“It’s an honor to put on the helmet that you grew up watching,” Longwell said.
During his junior high football days in Puyallup, the first person to hold a snap on one of his kicks was Damon Huard in seventh grade at Aylen Junior High.
But his ties to the area and the organization don’t end there.
Many people fondly (or bitterly) remember the infamous and regrettable quote from Matt Hasselbeck: “We want the ball and we’re going to score,” during the overtime coin toss of the Seahawks’ playoff game against the Green Bay Packers on Jan. 4, 2004.
Hasselbeck would go on to throw an interception that Green Bay’s Al Harris returned for a winning touchdown making the Seattle quarterback’s remark that much more absurd. But what people probably don’t know is that the comment was directed at Longwell.
“I promise you, as God is my witness, that he was looking directly at me when he said that,” Longwell said. “We had no idea the microphone was on.”
Why would he say such a thing to Longwell?
Well, they were teammates with the Packers for two seasons. And as the backup quarterback, Hasselbeck was Longwell’s holder for field goals and extra-point kicks. Hasselbeck’s first career touchdown pass – a 9-yard reception by Jeff Thomason in 1999 – was on a fake field goal that Longwell helped him celebrate.
“He is one of my best friends,” Longwell said. “He and I are really close and our families are really close.”
The two friends had been jawing back and forth in fun. So when they met as captains at midfield for the beginning of overtime, it continued.
“There’s a ton of pressure in that situation and to have one of your best buddies across the sidelines, it was the perfect moment for that … if the mikes weren’t on,” Longwell said. “It was give and take. … There was no intention of rubbing it in to Packer fans or making some statement as the way everyone made it out to be. I felt bad for the guy for the way it ended and it all turned out. It was just bad timing.”
But Longwell hopes the timing this time around will be good for the Seahawks. If an overtime or late-game field goal is needed, Longwell’s playoff experience should be a benefit. That’s why he was his strength over three other kickers. Longwell has appeared in 13 postseason games, and converted 17 of 23 field goals and 30 of 31 PATs.
“When you look at the time he’s had in playoff situations, to make this transition for a younger guy might be more of an issue,” Carroll said. “I think he can handle it. He’s a very even-keeled guy, a true professional. He was flawless in the workout.”
Longwell booted a 55-yard field goal and showed plenty of strength in his kickoffs. He thinks he’s ready to perform in the biggest game of the season.
“When you look at my career, I’ve been pretty good in those situations,” Longwell said. “It’s not that if you know if you are going to succeed or not. It’s that you have this deep faith you can do the job and the job and the situation don’t get bigger than what it is, and that’s kicking (a) football.
“I’m here to help these guys. They’ve had an incredible season and you just want to keep it going.”Ryan Divish: 253-597-8483 firstname.lastname@example.org blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @RyanDivish