RENTON One day a college kid, the next day a professional athlete -- the change in lifestyle is so dramatic and immediate it can give many young men a dizzying sense of social and economic vertigo.
The NFL has long held an annual Rookie Symposium to help fresh draft picks find their footing in their new environment, where early missteps can prove extremely costly.
This year, though, each franchise has taken over a three-day Rookie Transition Program to provide a primer on dealing with money, family, off-field responsibilities, conditioning and so many other facets of their new lives.
By holding these at each site, the teams can include all rookies (including undrafted free agents), and also add sessions specific to the franchise.
Former players Walter Jones, Marcus Trufant, Bryce Fisher and Jordan Babineaux gave the players straight answers about the demands of being a professional.
But to start off Monday’s afternoon session, original Seahawks PR director Gary Wright provided an oral history of moments that set the franchise apart. It was titled: What it means to be a Seahawk.
Wright is a legend in the PR side of the league, and annually was asked to manage the media center at the Super Bowl. When he retired, the Seahawks named the CenturyLink press box after him.
His message to the new and prospective Seahawks was that it’s about much more than getting the jersey and the helmet and paychecks from Paul Allen. It’s about a culture that has been shaped in the past 40 years.
--It’s about success.
“Fifteen playoff seasons in this team’s history, and 11 of those have come since Paul Allen has owned the team in the last 17 years,” Wright told them, adding the Seahawks playoff record at home is 11-2, including nine straight wins.
With three NFC championships in the last 10 seasons, “You are in a perfect place to have an opportunity to succeed.”
--Ownership has been a key.
The original owners, the Nordstrom family along with others influential in Seattle, “established a way of doing business that has continued through today,” Wright said.
Wright told them the story of how the Nordstrom business policy translated to running an NFL franchise. Except when the inverted organizational chart with the customers and sales people at the top and the owners at the bottom was applied to the NFL, it put the fans and players at the top as the most important element of the franchise.
“It wasn’t about the owners being excited about owning the team and being on television,” Wright said. “In fact, (the Nordstroms) wouldn’t let us put their picture in the media guide because it wasn’t about them.”
He then told the players about what he considered the most important day in Seahawks history, when Paul Allen took over the team, blocking the move to California attempted by owner Ken Behring.
--It’s about players’ efforts.
So many players in their early 20s have no notion of some of the early Seahawks stars.
Wright gave them background on Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent. He added a little-known sidebar to the noted episode when Largent applied an avenging hit on Broncos defensive back Mike Harden.
Harden had put Largent out of action for six weeks with a broken wrist on a hit many considered dirty. Later that season, when the teams played again and Harden came up with an interception, Largent nailed him with enough forced to send him flying, forcing a fumble that he recovered.
What went unseen was something Wright had watched from the window of his office overlooking the practice field. During the weeks Largent couldn’t practice with the team, and the Seahawks were in meetings, Largent was out on the field by himself, running every play on the practice schedule. “No ball, no players, just the entire practice himself,” Wright said. “That’s what sets a Hall of Famer apart. Lots of guys have great abilities, not everybody exceeds their abilities.”
He added stories of the ’84 team overcoming the injury to Curt Warner and going 12-4, and of the dramatic 1990 Dave Krieg-to-Paul Skansi touchdown on the last play at Kansas City to get a win despite Derrick Thomas’s NFL-record seven sacks of Krieg.
Most of the rookies nodded their heads when Wright asked if they’d seen Marshawn Lynch’s BeastQuake run against New Orleans in the playoffs after the 2010 season.
“That’s a talented guy, but it’s about more than talent,” Wright said. “That’s about heart. Somehow, some way, I’m gonna make it happen, I’m gonna get that done. I’m running over you and I’m running over you, and then I’m running by you.”
--It’s about the people.
“The wins, the trophies, those are what we all strive for, but it takes the people in the organization,” Wright said. New to the league, the players would have no idea how rare is the quality of the VMAC headquarters facility, he said.
Wright wanted them to take specific note of the long wall in the hallway heading from the players’ parking lot to the locker room, where plaques record the names and signatures of every Seahawks player in franchise history.
“Nobody is every forgotten,” he said. “If you make this team, one game, you will never be forgotten. Everybody is important. That’s part of the DNA, that’s part of who we are.”