Search for “David Hawthorne” on the Internet, and one of the entries you’ll find lists some bare vitals. Linebacker for the Seattle Seahawks. Height: 6-foot. Weight: 240. College: TCU.
And under “Career Highlights and Awards,” it says this: “No notable achievements.”
Uh, beg to differ. The fact that he’s starting at middle linebacker for the Seahawks, after having been an undrafted free agent in 2008, is a rather notable achievement.
That he’s racked up as many as 16 tackles in a single game, and has three interceptions this season also is worthy of note.
Of course, those following the Seahawks these days – and pretty much anybody involved with the team – would never conduct an electronic search for him under the listing “David Hawthorne.”
The derivation of the term defines his two seasons with the Hawks.
When he showed up, undersized and unheralded, Hawthorne made people notice him from the first practice. Whenever there was tackle that looked like a car wreck ... Hawthorne was involved. Whenever helmets flew off or the sound of contact caused heads to turn, Hawthorne was supplying the pop.
Pro Bowl middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu commented that Hawthorne was really “heating up” guys on the field. He began calling him Heat-thorne, which quickly turned into “Heater.”
Former coach Mike Holmgren used to always tell the longshots to never count numbers, to never focus on the odds, but only the effort. Hawthorne didn’t have to be told – he had no clue about roster size or how many linebackers make the team.
“I didn’t even know what the situation was, to be honest,” he said. “I just came up here to play football. I knew I could play football and when I got to camp I just tried to keep my head on my shoulders and take care of the things I could control – preparing and playing – and let everything else take care of itself.”
From the first exhibition scrimmage, he brought a visible impact. Although not big, he connected like a Joe Frazier jab, and bodies began flying.
“That’s been my style all my life,” he said. “It tends to generate a little attention when you start knocking guys around. It’s about being reckless with your body, and not worrying so much about the pain.”
In his first exhibition game, at Minnesota in August 2008, he forced two fumbles in the second half. And, yes, people started noticing. He made the team, served as a backup to Tatupu, and got in his share of head-knocking on special teams.
When Tatupu went down with an injury this season, Hawthorne stepped in with dramatic effect, making 16 tackles and an interception against Chicago, tackling 15 more at Minnesota, getting two sacks against Dallas, and two interceptions versus Detroit.
Coach Jim Mora calls his discovery “a diamond in the rough” story. But he points out that Hawthorne’s success is about far more than just being reckless with his body. His work ethic, film study and dedication allow him to be in position to make those big hits, Mora said.
“I think you get your edge with the study,” Hawthorne said.
“Everybody here can play or they wouldn’t be here ... the edge comes after practice. That’s where you go back and look at your mistakes, get the coaching, make the corrections and learn from it.”
His mentor, he said, “from the first day I stepped on campus,” has been Tatupu.
“He’s been like that every step,” Hawthorne said. “And now that he’s on (injured reserve), he’s still giving me his wisdom. He can’t be on the field, but in a way, by helping me, his brain is out there.”
Despite playing with a somewhat rabid intensity, Hawthorne is a very genial and soft-spoken Texan. He said he spends most of his time watching film and studying. “I’m the same guy who hopped off the bus as a free agent,” he said. “I’m the guy who everybody counts out. I’ve been an underdog all the way, coming out of high school, coming out of TCU ... that’s the way it’s always been for me.”
Knowing that he beat the odds makes the success sweeter, he said, and it reminds him to stay hungry.
“It’s 85-90 percent about desire,” he said. “It’s all about want-to. If you don’t love this sport, you won’t succeed in it. You have to have a passion every time you go out there.
“I know I’m lucky. I know that what I have is definitely a blessing and a privilege.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440