As the Seattle Seahawks gear up for the team’s second Super Bowl, fans seem to be stepping all over each other to make sure the world knows they’re “in.”
With the bandwagon bulging, some are questioning the 12th Man credentials of their fellow fanatics. We don’t worry about such things. Everyone should get a chance to root on the home team.
But if fair-weather fans are going to co-mingle with lifelong true believers, they’re going to need to bone up on some team history. Consider this Seahawks 101.
We assume most fans caught the team’s recent success under coach Mike Holmgren. And we hope everyone knows all about Hall of Famers Cortez Kennedy and Steve Largent. You might have even seen the footage of Largent’s famous hit on Mike Harden making the rounds recently on social media. That kind of basic knowledge is a must.
This exercise, however, will dig deeper. Follow along, and take the step from casual fan to legitimate 12th Man.
WHAT’S A 12?
There’s a lot of talk these days about the growing legion of unruly, trash-talking and flag-waving Seahawks fans. Some might wonder how they all got here.
On Dec. 15, 1984, team president Mike McCormack retired the No. 12 jersey and dedicated it to the fans. Before then, the thousands of Hawks fans were disconnected individuals. Ever since, it’s been a collective.
It all starts with 12. The number is the unifying key into Seahawks Nation. Get it on a jersey, slap your name on the back and you’re instantly a member.
DOME SWEET HOME
Nothing beats CenturyLink Field, but don’t mock the Kingdome.
Sure, it smelled like stale beer, had the aesthetic appeal of a sidewalk and was a stinking bastion of trough urinals. But a lot of good times were had at that old eyesore.
Ground Chuck Knox led the Seahawks to their first taste of playoff success, Kennedy dominated the line of scrimmage, and Holmgren’s first Seattle squad duelled Dan Marino in his swan song.
No one in their right mind wants it back, but everyone remembers the dome for what it was: the team’s first home.
THEY CALL HIM KENNY
Kenneth Mason Easley Jr. is his name, but he goes by Kenny.
He made the Pro Bowl five times in seven seasons and was an All Pro four times. He was named Defensive Player of the Year in 1984.
He was a one-man Legion of Boom. Then his kidneys gave out.
Easley’s play began to decline right around the time he represented fellow players in the strike of ’87. The Seahawks decided to trade him, but Easley failed the physical.
His kidneys were shot from allegedly taking 15-20 Advil a day, which he said were readily available in the locker room. He retired and the team settled a lawsuit out of court. Two years later, he had a kidney transplant.
His career was short, but brilliant.
Dave Krieg was a heck of a quarterback. He burst onto the scene as the full-time starter in 1983 in relief of a struggling Jim Zorn.
Krieg won 70 games as the Seahawks starter. He led Seattle to four playoff runs, its first division title and represented the team in three Pro Bowls.
Along the way, he fumbled. A lot. One hundred and eight times to be exact.
The poor man had the daintiest, wee-little hands. Ask anyone; it’s a fact.
WE CHEER FOR BEER
Before Blitz there was Bill Scott, the unofficial Seahawks mascot.
For more than 20 years, Bill the Beerman led cheers at the Kingdome. He didn’t need a microphone. His bellowing voice could be heard rattling around the rafters, counting time.
His beard, overalls and enthusiasm popped up all over the stadium at different moments. He roamed free.
And when the game was on the line and the team needed him most, he’d amble out from behind a cement column and shout, “Two, three!”
And the crowd would always answer, “SEA-HAWKS!”
Seattle drafted defensive end Jacob Green from Texas A&M in 1980.
For the next 12 seasons, he terrorized quarterbacks. Green played one season with San Francisco before retiring as the No. 3 sack man in NFL history behind Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor.
His greatness is often overlooked. He was a soft-spoken giant who went about his business with a quiet dignity. But when Green got in the backfield, no QB was safe.
THE OTHER NO. 80
Two men have worn No. 80 for the Seahawks.
Largent was issued the number in 1976 and put together a Hall of Fame career, retiring with nearly every receiving record in NFL history.
The man who broke those records, Jerry Rice, came to Seattle in 2004 and was given permission to put on the sacred number he’d worn in San Francisco and Oakland.
It was here Rice made the final 25 receptions of his career and scored the last three of his NFL-record 197 touchdowns.
CURT WITH A ‘C’
Long before the Greatest Show on Turf was sparked by an Arena League standout named Kurt Warner, there was Curt Warner.
Coach Knox called his number over and over again in 1983 en route to 1,449 rushing yards as a rookie out of Penn State. Two years later, Warner ran for 1,481 yards and became the first Seahawk to lead the conference in rushing.
He was named to three Pro Bowls and scored 62 touchdowns in a Seattle uniform. His career ended after an injury-plagued season with the Rams in 1990, and while he was not quite one of the greats, he was Seattle’s first hard-nosed, breakaway threat.
WHITE HELMET, BROWN FOOTBALL
With the Seahawks heading to the Meadowlands for Super Bowl XLVIII, it’s a good time to remember one of the oddest days in team history.
On Dec. 6, 1998, the New York Jets beat the Seattle Seahawks, 32-31, when referee Phil Luckett ruled Jets quarterback Vinny Testaverde scored a touchdown after diving toward the end zone on fourth-and-goal with 20 seconds left.
The problem? Replays showed the ball ended up a yard shy of the goal line. Afterward, the refs explained they somehow confused Testaverde’s helmet, which barely crossed the plane, for the football.
The loss helped keep Seattle out of the playoffs, which cost coach Dennis Erickson his job.
Jets coach Bill Parcells said afterward, “God’s playing in some of these games, and he was on our side.”
Perhaps God was with the Seahawks, too, as the team replaced Erickson with Holmgren a year later.
No receiver has ever gone over the middle like Brian Blades.
The stocky athlete out of Miami had soft hands and was born for contact. He joined the Seahawks in 1988 and played opposite Largent his first two seasons, being named an All Pro in 1989.
After Largent retired, Blades was the go-to guy. But with quarterbacks such as Kelly Stouffer, Dan McGwire, Stan Gelbaugh, Rick Mirer and John Friesz throwing him the football, Blades found it hard to duplicate his early success.
After 11 seasons, he retired behind only Largent in nearly every receiving category in team history.
THE GOOD, THE BAD, AND THE SAVIOR
Lloyd Nordstrom and a group of investors secured the expansion Seahawks from the NFL for the inaugural 1976 season. From Zorn to Krieg to Largent, these were the good ol’ days.
Real estate mogul Ken Behring, on the other hand, bought the team in 1988 and ran it into the ground. He tried to move the franchise to Anaheim, Calif., in 1996. Seahawks fans save their choicest curse words for Mr. Behring.
And then there’s Paul Allen. Since the co-founder of Microsoft bought the team from Behring, the Seahawks have made nine trips to the playoffs and won six division titles. Now they’re on their way to their second Super Bowl. Someday there will be a bronze statue outside the stadium in Allen’s likeness.
CULT HEROES AND FAN FAVORITES
A lot of hype accompanied Brian Bosworth to Seattle and he never quite lived up to it. But the middle linebacker played his greatest game in a 23-20 overtime playoff loss to the Houston Oilers following the 1987 season, recording 16 tackles.
Rufus Porter came to the team with much less fanfare as an undrafted free agent in 1988. He took to the field with a flurry, recording 17 special-teams tackles and earning a trip to the Pro Bowl as a rookie. The following season, he tallied 10.5 sacks as an outside linebacker. For the next few years, fans regularly chanted “Roooooooofus” and quarterbacks watched their backs.
Tacoma’s Jon Kitna led Central Washington to the 1995 NAIA national championship. Erickson spotted him playing alongside his nephew and invited Kitna to camp. In ’99, under Holmgren’s tutelage, Kitna led the Seahawks to their first playoff appearance in more than a decade.
And yet there were so many more. Fredd Young, Joe Nash and Daryl “The Burner” Turner all left their marks on team history. Jeff Bryant, John L. Williams and Dave Brown did, too. Unfortunately, there’s only so much material one course can cover. Perhaps we’ll hold an advanced seminar next year, during the Hawks run for a repeat.