Anthony Hargrove shot through a gap in the line with surprising quickness, and absolutely flattened Giants running back D.J. Ware for a safety.
It was a crucial play in the third quarter of a 36-25 upset win Oct. 8, and interesting that it was accomplished by such a relative newcomer to the Seattle defensive line.
It was the kind of play that often triggers showy celebrations or provocative dance moves by large men.
But Hargrove was reserved in his expression, likely because so much of his life these days is a study in personal humility.
Oh, yes, he was excited.
“It felt awesome,” he said.
It was not only relevant in the context of the game, but it also occurred in greater New York, just miles from where he survived a traumatic youth.
And it was witnessed by a number of family members, who were acutely aware of Hargrove’s story of squandered opportunities, drug addiction and rehabilitation, and now, redemption.
Before he arrived with the Seahawks shortly before their first game, some of his new teammates had only heard stories of the problems that led to his year-long suspension from the NFL.
“I had seen his story, but then meeting him, I was like, ‘Whoa, is this that guy?’ ” defensive tackle Brandon Mebane said. “You see that stuff and you make judgments. But who are we to judge? Then you get to know the man, and I’ll tell you this: I think he’s a world-class man to know.”
Sitting in a corner cubicle of the Seahawks’ locker room at team headquarters, Hargrove was comfortable telling his story, perhaps because he is driven by it morning until night.
“For me, it’s about waking up every day and doing my best, and when I lay down at night, I want to look back at my day and say I accomplished something,” he said. “I made some poor choices in my life, but now it’s all about focusing on doing the right things and earning the consequences of the good choices you make.”
Hargrove’s family went homeless when he was 6, when their tenement home burned down.
At 9, he saw his mother die of AIDS complications. His father was not in the picture, leaving him in homeless shelters or foster situations until resettling with an aunt in South Carolina.
His football talents earned him a scholarship to Georgia Tech, but he flunked out after two seasons.
“Football filled the void at first, but once I got into college and was on my own, as a young man, I didn’t want to listen,” he said. “I started chasing the big-city life of Atlanta and following the wrong crowd and making poor choices. I didn’t have anybody to guide me in the right direction, or maybe I wasn’t letting anybody guide me.”
Hargrove showed such promise, though – with a 40-yard dash time of 4.6 seconds, and a 39-inch vertical leap – that he was drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the third round of the 2004 NFL draft.
His career descent, and serious bouts of depression, were a function of “not being honest with myself, living in denial thinking I was invincible, and nothing could happen to me,” he said.
Cocaine became “a big power in my life,” he said. “I really got addicted to that to the point where there were physical withdrawals. It’s the scariest thing you can imagine to realize you have no control over something, and it takes you to the dark side; it’s demonic when it has you in its grip.”
The Rams traded him to Buffalo in 2006, and he was suspended four games in early 2007 because of a bad drug test, and then was suspended for a full season for another bad test in January 2008.
“When I was suspended, nobody was calling. I hadn’t had contact with my oldest son I realized my life was going nowhere and I was going to be just another guy who threw his career in the garbage.”
The NFL helped him get into three months of rehab in South Carolina, and he followed that with another 10 months in a Miami facility.
He came to learn that his addiction and depression were likely rooted in the trauma of his youth.
“I was running from those things a very long time and never really wanted to face them,” he said. “I kept piling stuff on top of it and drowned it all with booze and other drugs, and I finally hit a breaking point where the bottom fell in.”
In rehab, “I became a very spiritual person, and I really learned to walk my faith in that time,” he said.
And on Valentine’s Day 2009, he received his reinstatement letter from commissioner Roger Goodell.
But that didn’t mean employment. Hargrove’s agent and longtime friend, Phil Williams, said personnel directors all over the league told him that they were afraid of having to answer all the unpleasant questions if Hargrove relapsed after they took a chance on him.
So Williams made a 10-minute video of himself just talking with Hargrove, so they might sense his personality and sincerity.
“I wanted them to hear his voice and see his face to get an idea who he is,” Williams said.
The New Orleans Saints were sold, and Hargrove ended up winning a Super Bowl ring with them in a game played in Miami, just miles from where he had been in rehab.
His Saints teammates voted him the team’s winner of the Ed Block Courage Award.
During the lockout this summer, Hargrove spent considerable time with his brother Terrence, who played a key role in his getting into football in the first place, and also getting into rehab.
In late June, Hargrove received a call that Terrence had been stabbed to death in a domestic dispute near Sarasota, Fla.
“We haven’t really gotten much more than a lot of speculation,” Hargrove said of the circumstances.
This season, Hargrove was released in the final cut by Philadelphia, and Seattle picked him up the week of its first game. Now, teammates say, he’s the player who most often leads them in prayers.
“Maybe he had to go through hell to help him start being the man he really could be,” Williams said. “He now is the kind of guy who will bring life to other people; when you hit bottom and you’ve found salvation, you really are a potential vessel for great messages.”
Hargrove’s message is heartfelt, coming from experience and pain.
“No, it’s not been a smooth path,” he said. “It’s humbling, and you have to humble yourself every day and know that every day is a rededication to doing what’s right.
“I guess that’s what I learned: When things get ugly, you push through and come out the other side and realize that the journey was the most important part.”
Dave Boling: 253-597-8440