The Seahawks’ 2012 Man of the Year was the man of the morning last Friday, March 22 at Vision House – a Seattle-based social service agency that provides support for homeless mothers and their children.
Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung was on hand as a special guest for Vision House’s Easter party, spending time with some of the house’s children.
“Kids said I was the wrong Russell,” Okung jokingly-tweeted along with the above photo on Saturday morning, referring to the kids’ infatuation with the team’s “other” Russell – quarterback Russell Wilson.
Okung was named Seahawks Man of the Year last season for his work in the community with his UP Foundation, whose mission is to give back to the community by reaching out to children of single-parent homes – a cause that hits close to home for Okung, who himself was raised by a single mother. As part of the honor, Okung was awarded $1,000, which he chose to donate to Vision House back in November of 2012.
“The kids had a fun time with him,” said Mary Burton, leader of Vision House’s Community and Donor Relations. “He’s such a great guy. The boys had a lot of fun throwing the football with him. They really crave male role models and absolutely loved running around with Russell.”
You can check out more photos from Okung’s visit with Vision House by heading over to their Facebook page.
Richard Sherman appeared on the NFL Network’s NFL AM this morning, and the Seahawks’ All-Pro cornerback had a lot to say on several topics.
Here’s a transcript of the interview:
On the San Francisco 49ers trading for wide receiver Anquan Boldin:
“That was a great move. I was really surprised they got him for a sixth-round pick. I thought the way he played in the postseason and the way he played all season he was worth a lot more than that. But that was a great move by San Francisco and they got a great player who still has a lot of football left.”
On the areas the Seahawks need to address this offseason:
“We have a pretty solid team as we stand; we have a lot of playmakers. Obviously with (Chris) Clemons going down last year with a knee injury, they’re going to probably try to secure that and get some depth there. We let Jason Jones go into free agency so I think the defensive line is where we’re going to pick up some pieces. We have great depth at linebacker and at defensive back. I’ve heard rumors of us picking up a defensive back or two, and obviously I’m always happy for more competition. My teammates are too; whatever makes us better. We just picked up a great weapon on offense but I’m sure Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) are going to do whatever they think is best for the team. They’ve done a great job so far.”
On if he expects the Seahawks the highest paid cornerback in the league when he becomes an unrestricted free agent:
“To tell you the truth, I’m not sure. I don’t think I’m the one to comment on that. All I can do is play to the best of my abilities. We have a lot of great players on our team who are obviously going to want the same thing. We have Russell Okung, Russell Wilson, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Brandon Browner – we have a lot of great players who are also going to need to make their money and to get compensated for everything they’ve done. Pete (Carroll) and John (Schneider) will do a great job making sure we all stay in Seattle, and whatever that means – if that means me being the highest paid corner – then that’s what it means. If not, then it is what it is.”
On what would interest him the most about the free agency process:
“You see other teams all of the time; you play against them. But you never see organizations for what they are internally. You hear about them through other players and you see them through osmosis; how they treat other players and how they deal with other players. The Seahawks have one of the best organizations and one of the best teams in the way they treat the team and the way they develop our chemistry and treat us like more of a college family atmosphere. That’s why a lot of players who are currently here enjoy playing for Pete (Carroll) and those guys because it’s such a great environment. It’s almost like you’re not in the NFL; we haven’t been exposed to that side of it as much as other players have. I’m appreciative for that and I’m kind of not looking forward to seeing that part of the game.”
Tedy Bruschi was a no-nonsense linebacker for 13 seasons with the Patriots. Now an analyst for ESPN, he has decided to select a team of players that also go “full tilt, full time,” as he put it. And his first All-Bruschi Team includes four Seahawks – defensive end Chris Clemons, cornerback Richard Sherman, quarterback Russell Wilson and left tackle Russell Okung.
Here’s what Bruschi had to say about each:
Clemons: “On a defense where the secondary seems to get all the press, Clemons is the rock. Losing Clemons to injury in the wild-card round win over the Redskins was something the Seahawks couldn’t overcome the following week. Clemons led the Seahawks in sacks (11.5) and also set a solid edge versus the run from his Leo/elephant position. While the Seahawks drafted Bruce Irvin in the first round, Irvin was not yet ready to fulfill Clemons’ every-down duties.”
Sherman: “How did he not make the Pro Bowl? At 6-foot-3 and 195 pounds, he is a big cornerback who will put on the boxing gloves at the line of scrimmage with anyone. He also has solid ball skills (8 interceptions in 2012). Similar to Cortland Finnegan, he’s a player who isn’t well liked by many opposing players, in part because he talks a lot of trash and comes across as arrogant. He’s the type of player you don’t want to go up against, but you love him if he’s on your team. When he’s on his game, lock him up and let him go.”
Wilson: “All the attention was on the top two picks in the draft – Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III – but Wilson (75th overall) wouldn’t allow himself to be left out of the discussion. The Seahawks invested significantly in free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn last offseason, but Wilson proved he was special and deserved the job from his start of his rookie season. He might not have the prototypical size, but no one is talking about that because all he does is lead his team to wins.”
Okung: “He has received some national recognition, and entered the league as a first-round draft choice, so he fits a different profile than several other picks. One play jumped out to me on tape as he put 49ers defensive lineman Justin Smith on his back. That’s not easy to do, and it’s that type of power and aggression that earns him this spot.”
We haven’t exhausted the coverage from our trip to chronicle the Seahawks Six in the Pro Bowl just yet.
For one last farewell to Paradise and the Pro Bowl, we asked each player for his favorite memory from the week in Hawaii:
Quarterback Russell Wilson: “Just to be with these guys, the other Seahawks Pro Bowlers. And then just being around Drew Brees and Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, it’s really special. Especially this being my rookie year, it just means a lot. It’s just a joy to be here.”
Tackle Russell Okung: “The impact we were able to have on the game. Marshawn (Lynch) did a great job. Leon (Washington) had a great return. Max (Unger) pretty much played the whole game. Earl (Thomas) had his interception. And Russell Wilson really got off.”
Center Max Unger, who grew up on the Big Island: “I don’t know what to say. The whole thing was just really cool. Just being able to have the best football players in the world be in Hawaii and having the fans be able to come out and see these guys and kind of interact with them at the practices and finally at the game, it’s cool. It’s kind of trippy seeing everybody here in Oahu.”
Safety Earl Thomas: “Just sharing this experience with my family and my teammates. It’s something you’ll never forget. You’re playing with some future Hall of Famers out here and when you get out here and play with the best it brings the best out of you.”
Kick returner Leon Washington: “Just having fun and enjoying this moment with my family and teammates. It’s a blessing. I’m so fortunate.”
Running back Marshawn Lynch: “Not talking to the media. That’s pretty much it, just being able to be away from everything and having some time to kick back with family, just hang out and get to meet some of the guys.”
Twitter chatter from game day of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii:
To All Seattle @Seahawks fans:
Thanks 4 everything during my Rookie Season! Wow!
@1AshtonWilson & I love Seattle bc of you!!
Unbelievable season playing w/ All my @Seahawks teammates as a Rookie!
We represented today in the #ProBowl
2013.. Here we go!—
Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) January 28, 2013
Had a great time in Hawaii and even a better one in the actual game…..—
Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) January 28, 2013
Hahahaha did JJ Watt just go out as a WR?!? Hahahahahaha—
Dbfresh (@DougBaldwinJr) January 28, 2013
Seahawks players killing it at the Pro Bowl!! Go Hawks!! So proud :)—
Sea Gal Tessa (@SeaGalTessa) January 28, 2013
Whose watching #ProBowl2013 today!?
Retweet or Reply if you are tuning in!—
Russell Wilson (@DangeRussWilson) January 27, 2013
Twitter chatter from the eve of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii:
From free safety Earl Thomas’ Instagram: “Mom and Lil duece !!”
From free safety Earl Thomas’ Instagram: “12′swayyyyy in Hawaii..”
From free safety Earl Thomas’ Instagram: “Had a great time meeting all the fans….”
As the seasons pass I can see just how much my understanding & feel for the game has changed. Ever evolving into a better player…..—
Earl Thomas (@Earl_Thomas) January 27, 2013
Beautiful day in Hawaii! So Blessed to be here as a Rookie with my Seahawks teammates.
Earl Thomas and Russell Okung:
Our most valuable players:
Aloha Stadium, the site of the 2013 NFL Pro Bowl tomorrow:
Twitter chatter from Seahawks Pro Bowl Blue Friday in Honolulu, Hawaii:
Leon Washington’s wife, Charity, posted to Instagram this photo of their time at Larry Fitzgerald’s Luau:
Big Daddy Russ with 2 Chainz at a Pro Bowl concert last night:
Friday in Hawkville: Larry Fitzgerald says it’s ‘surprising’ that Richard Sherman was not voted to the Pro Bowl
KO OLINA, Oahu – Hawkville has moved to Hawaii this week, as six Seahawks are preparing to play in Sunday’s Pro Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Today, we visited the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa as the NFC and AFC squads stayed “home” to practice:
Richard Sherman. What? The Seahawks’ cornerback isn’t even here. But then, that’s the point.
After intercepting a career-high eight passes during the regular season to tie for second in the NFL, Sherman was voted All-Pro, but not to the Pro Bowl – where the Bears’ duo of Tim Jennings and Charles Tillman are the starters for the NFC and the Cardinals’ Patrick Peterson is the third corner.
So we felt compelled to ask, “What’s up with that?”
“He had a phenomenal year. He really had a breakout year,” Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said today after the NFC’s 15-minute on-field session. “So it is surprising that he’s not here. But I know he’ll have many more moving forward.”
Fitzgerald has gotten to know Sherman quite well the past three times the NFC West rivals have met. In the 2011 season finale in Arizona, Sherman and fellow Seahawks corner Brandon Browner were so physical with Fitzgerald that he was coughing up blood on the sideline. This season, Fitzgerald caught four passes for 63 yards in the opener in the desert, with Sherman intercepting one pass and breaking up another. During the December rematch in Seattle, Sherman intercepted two passes, broke up a third and also recovered a fumble, while Fitzgerald caught one pass for 2 yards – despite being targeted 11 times.
“Hopefully, I won’t contribute to his stats as much in the future,” Fitzgerald said with a laugh.
Kick returner Leon Washington, one of the six Seahawks who are on the NFC squad, can relate to Sherman’s Pro Bowl snub.
“My first year in Seattle, I scored three touchdowns and didn’t go,” said Washington, referring to his trio of kickoff returns for scores in 2010. “It’s so weird. It works like that sometimes. But Richard is All-Pro. And that’s big. That’s almost bigger than the Pro Bowl.
“He’ll be here next year.”
MATT THOMAS HIRED TO REPLACE JOHN IDZIK
The Seahawks didn’t wait long to re-hire Dan Quinn as their defensive coordinator after Gus Bradley was named head coach of the Jaguars last week. They followed the same path after John Idzik left to become general manager of the Jets later in the week, as Matt Thomas was named today as the team’s new vice president of football administration.
“Matt is a well-respected salary cap expert and was recommended by many top-ranking NFL executives,” general manager John Schneider said. “I am excited to welcome him to our football family.”
Thomas joins the Seahawks after spending the past three seasons with the Browns in the same capacity as their salary-cap expert and chief contract negotiator. He began his NFL career in 1998 with the Dolphins and spent 12 seasons with the club, including being the vice president/general counsel & football administration in 2009.
A LITTLE ASSISTANTS, PLEASE
The NFC squad is being coached by Mike McCarthy and his Packers’ staff, which includes assistant head coach/inside linebackers coach Winston Moss. He played linebacker for the Seahawks from 1995-97 and finished second on the team with 106 tackles in 1996.
Greg Knapp, the Seahawks’ offensive coordinator in 2009, is a member of John Fox’s staff with the Broncos that is coaching the AFC squad. Knapp just joined the Broncos after spending the season as offensive coordinator of the Raiders.
AN EVEN DOZEN FOR CHAMP
Speaking of the Broncos, cornerback Champ Baily is taking part in his 12th Pro Bowl. But he definitely is not taking a ho-hum, just-another-week-in-Hawaii approach.
“I had a veteran tell me a long time ago, if you are willing to stop coming, you stop coming,” Bailey said. “Any time I’m invited to do something this special, I’m coming. Unless I’m really hurt, that’s the only way I would miss this game.”
STAT DU JOUR
Russell Wilson will become the fourth Seahawks quarterback to play in the Pro Bowl, as the rookie joins Dave Krieg, Warren Moon and Matt Hasselbeck. Here’s a look at how those other QBs have done in their Pro Bowl appearances:
Player, (season) Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int.
Dave Krieg (1984) 10 4 32 0 0
Dave Krieg (1988) 14 3 21 0 1
Dave Krieg (1989) 23 15 148 0 0
Warren Moon (1997) 8 4 89 0 0
Matt Hasselbeck (2003) 9 4 51 0 1
Matt Hasselbeck (2005) 17 10 85 0 1
Matt Hasselbeck (2007) 9 7 78 1 0
Both Pro Bowl squads will hold their final practice on Saturday morning at Aloha Stadium.
After practice today, Wilson took part in a roundtable with Broncos QB Peyton Manning, Redskins linebacker London Fletcher and Packers center Jeff Saturday that will air Sunday as part of NBC’s coverage of the game.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It’s extremely unlike me. You know me, man. Me and media, we never mix. But this is a great opportunity.” – left tackle Russell Okung on the media attention that comes with being at his first Pro Bowl
HONOLULU – Hawkville moves to Paradise this week, as the Seahawks have six players preparing to participate in the Pro Bowl on Sunday at Aloha Stadium:
Russell Wilson. What a whirlwind week the Seahawks’ rookie quarterback has had. He didn’t find out that he was being added to the NFC Pro Bowl squad until Sunday after Falcons QB Matt Ryan injured his left shoulder during Atlanta’s loss to the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
Imagine how rushed Wilson must have been in preparing to join teammates Russell Okung, Max Unger, Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington and Earl Thomas for their flight from Seattle to Honolulu on Tuesday. Or, think again.
“I got called right after the game,” Wilson, who was the third alternate at his position, said today following the NFC practice that was held at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam. “But I was hoping that I was going to be able to go. So I was already packed and ready to go.”
The kid QB is focused, and has been since the Seahawks selected him in the third round of the NFL Draft last April. How else can you explain everything he has been able to accomplish during a rookie season that now includes a Pro Bowl berth?
“It’s obviously a blessing,” Wilson said.
Okung and Unger are not the only Seahawks offensive linemen here this week. Okung brought right tackle Breno Giacomini and right guard John Moffitt with him.
So there are six Seahawks on the NFC squad and two more who are getting a first-hand look at just how cool it is to go to the Pro Bowl.
“That’s even better,” Okung said. “That just shows you what we’re doing as a team and where we’re trying to get. We’re going to have guys come here, hopefully, every year.”
WILSON WINS “TOP VALUE” AWARD
Wilson has been voted the Vizio Top Value Performer of the Year, which measures on-field performance against earnings.
The others finalists were Redskins running back Alfred Morris, Broncos wide receiver Eric Decker, Patriots running back Stevan Ridley and Jaguars wide receiver Cecil Shorts. But, according to the release announcing his selection, a record-breaking number of fans decided that Wilson provided his team with the greatest value during the 2012 season.
“It’s an honor to win this great award, and I’d like to thank the fans for voting me as the Vizio Top Value Performer,” said Wilson. “All the finalists had fantastic seasons and were certainly deserving of this award, but I’m happy to be able to share this with my teammates and all the fans that support our team.”
STAT DU JOUR
Half the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl contingent is here for the first time – Wilson, Unger and Okung. But the other half has been here before – Thomas, Washington and Lynch, who was the NFC’s leading rusher last season and the AFC’s leading rusher in 2008 while playing with the Bills. Here’s a look at their previous Pro Bowl contributions:
Year Carries Yards Avg.
2008 6 48 8.0
2011 8 43 5.4
(also caught one passes for 2 yards in ’08)
Year Carries Yards Avg.
2008 2 22 11.0
(also caught one pass for 6 yards; and returned four kickoffs for 65 yards and two punts for 2 yards)
2011 Credited with no tackles
The NFC and AFC squads will practice on Friday, but the sessions have been moved to the J.W. Marriott Ihilani Resort and Spa, where the players are staying. The practices originally were scheduled for Kapolei High School, the site of Wednesday’s practices.
YOU DON’T SAY
“It’s even more special for me, being from Hawaii. It’s pretty cool, man. I hope they keep the game here. It’s a pretty special environment. ” – Unger, who is from Kailua-Kona on the Big Island
HONOLULU – Along the fence that separated the fans from the Pro Bowl players they had come to see was Jason Higashionna.
In a crowd estimated at 1,500 that gathered for today’s practices by the NFC and AFC teams that will participate in Sunday’s game, Higashionna was front and center. He was wearing a No. 91 Chris Clemons jersey and standing underneath a 12th Man flag.
Let’s just say that Hawaiian-born-and-raised Higashionna has not only connections, but a friend who was willing to show up at 2 a.m. at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to insure their prime viewing spot and also, well, here’s what Higashionna had to say about his flag.
“The Sea Gals gave me that flag when they came through for a Pacific Rim tour,” he said, smiling despite the rain that started to fall as the NFC squad took the field and turned into soaking showers by the time the AFC got its turn.
Higashionna then pulled out his phone and produced a picture of him surrounded by members of the Seahawks’ dance team.
“They gave me that flag,” he said. “And it was an awesome experience.”
Higashionna was among the largest pocket of several groups of Seahawks fans who turned out to see the Sea-Six – the team’s Pro Bowl contingent that includes left tackle Russell Okung, center Max Unger, running back Marshawn Lynch, quarterback Russell Wilson, kick returner Leon Washington and free safety Earl Thomas.
But he is no 12th Man-come-lately.
“I’m diehard Seahawks fan,” he said. “I fell in love with them when I watched (Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve) Largent play.”
He then turned to several others in his group and offered with a laugh, “I appreciate all these guys jumping on the bandwagon. They see the light, and I’m happy to see that.”
They also detected the lightheartedness of his comment, as it was greeted by a rowdy round of laughter.
But while half a dozen members of his team came to Higashionna this week, Matt Darlington and Ryan and John Towner came from the Mainland to see the Seahawks’ Pro Bowl Six.
“We flew over just to support our guys,” Darlington said.
After their on-field session was completed, the players “worked” the fence. They signed autographs on everything from jerseys, to Pro Bowl helmets and footballs, to a baby – yes, one fan had Wilson autograph his child. They posed for pictures. They chatted with the fans who must have felt like they were watching a practice in Renton rather than Paradise.
One fan frustrated by his inability to get Wilson’s attention broke into his best Tom Hanks’ impersonation from “Cast Away,” as he repeatedly bellowed, “Wil-l-lson-n-n. Wil-l-lson-n-n.”
“This is a great experience,” Wilson said as he was walking back across the field to the buses that were waiting to take the NFC squad back to its resort – and as the drenched fans continued to call his name.
“It’s a privilege to be here.”