My dad was born and raised in a small town called Taylor, Nebraska. He was the biggest Cornhuskers fan I’ve ever known. I was watching a game with him on October 1, 2011. Their opponent that day was the Wisconsin Badgers. The Cornhuskers started out hot, but the Badgers proved to be too much. It was a blowout to the tune of 48-17—a rude welcoming to the Big Ten for the Big Red. I looked over at my dad at the end of the game, feeling terrible for him and all he could do was shake his head in disbelief. He said #16 was the best player on the field that day and the Cornhuskers didn’t have an answer for him.
After Russell Wilson was interviewed postgame, my dad very matter-of-factly said, "That kid is going to be a winner in the NFL."
More than six months later on April 27, 2012, I got off work and turned on my phone and saw that I had a voice mail. It was from my dad. His tone was excited. I don’t remember exactly what he said but he told me that the kid from Wisconsin who beat up on his Huskers was drafted and the Seahawks had found their quarterback.
I agreed. I watched Jon Gruden grill Wilson on his height and I could tell that while he knew Gruden was trying to get him to react, he stayed calm and collected. There was a hint of a boulder-sized chip on his shoulder, but it was controlled. More than anything else, I could tell the kid was supremely confident. I was impressed but when Gruden gave his thoughts at the end of the segment, I was 100 percent sure that we had found our quarterback. When I showed my dad the video on YouTube, he grinned ear to ear.
In the days following, I took shots from my buddies who made fun of me for being happy about our wasted pick on a midget quarterback. I didn’t care because like my dad, I was all in on the kid from Richmond, Virginia.
When the game was over, I was very disappointed, but right before I got back to the tunnel, walking off the field, I got so excited for the next opportunity next year. I’m looking forward to what we have in the future. We have a great football team.
Those were the words spoken by Wilson following the heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s playoffs.
"That’s right!" yelled my dad, with a big smile on his face. He looked at me—his son, a grown man on the verge of tears after witnessing Matt Bryant split the uprights with a 49-yard kick. I was pretty much inconsolable at that point but he did his best to convince me because he 3elieved.
As usual, I spent the day of January 13, 2013 at my parent’s house watching the game with my dad. My dad never wavered on his faith in Wilson even when we were down 27-7 early in the second half. The Seahawks mounted a furious comeback but ended up losing, 30-28. It was a crushing defeat and I didn’t take it well. It was at least three or four days before the sting would wear off.
I look back at that game more than any other because it would end up being the last game that I would watch with my hero. While my dad didn’t quite share the same level of love for the Seahawks that I possess, the amount of games that him and I have watched together over the past 24 years are innumerable.
"Buddy, look at their quarterback. They will be back. This is just the start."
Prophetic words, indeed.
I am an emotional guy. I always have been and always will be. Losing my dad has been the hardest and most challenging thing I have ever experienced. I can tie nearly everything in my life to my dad. Throughout my life, he has been present in the best of times and the worst of times—and that includes being a Seahawks fan. I started loving this team as I sat right next to him in our living room on the day that Steve Largent caught his 100th career touchdown pass. I was 8. He went to exactly one game with my brother and I—a 41-7 beat down delivered to the Seahawks by the New York Giants. It was a brutal game to attend, but my dad kept it light when he said, "Don’t worry, guys. I enjoyed a New York Giants football game today. It was fun."
Always the glass half-full guy and that is one of the many things I miss the most about him.
For me, Super Bowl 48 is about as sweet as it gets and it holds perhaps a bit more meaning than it does with the average fan. In an otherwise excruciatingly hard year, a Seahawks win over the Broncos would give me something to smile about and I know my dad would be thrilled.
There is undoubtedly a lot of 12’s that are not sharing in this joy with us. I’ve read and heard stories about fans no longer with us and it’s my hope that in six days, we can all celebrate the glory of watching our team accomplish what we always believed they would—together. Once you’re a 12, you’re always a 12.
When the Seahawks win this Super Bowl, my quality of life will not magically improve. I’ll wake up Monday with the same responsibilities that I had before. I’ll still have a job to go to. I’ll still have bills to pay. For the most trivial of reasons, I will enjoy the fact that my team can no longer be associated with the 10 teams left in the NFL who have not experienced the joy of accomplishing the most aspirational goal in football. No longer can friends ask me where my Super Bowl rings or Lombardi trophies are (though I’ve still yet to see a Cowboys or 49ers fan show me one of their rings). Perhaps that’s mere egotistical nonsense but it’s extremely important to me, for reasons that I mostly don’t understand. At 32, I am living vicariously through young men that put pads on and chase a ball around a field. It seems silly to some but I don’t care. Being this invested is a part of who I am and I’ve concluded that it’s nothing more than a continuation of my childhood that I continue to hang on to. Maybe one day I’ll outgrow it, but I won’t today. There’s way too much life and football left and I’m raising three boys myself, after all.
Like so many people who love this team, Wilson won’t get to physically experience this day with his dad, Harrison. Like our quarterback, I have a hope that reaches much further than this world and believe that all of our dads and other loved ones are not missing any of this. Not to be corny, but I think that’s why my admiration for Wilson has grown exponentially this season and it has very little to do with the fact that he’s won 27 games over the past two seasons. It has everything to do with his outlook on life and what he does both on and off the field that makes me mean it when I say there isn’t any other signal caller in the league that I would rather have than DangeRuss.
"I told you, buddy. Didn’t I tell you? Russell Wilson. Remember when he brutalized my Huskers? Just hearing him talk after that game told me all I needed to know. I told you when the Seahawks drafted him that they had found their quarterback. Your old man was pretty smart on that one. Go Hawks!"
Life makes football look small and insignificant, except when it doesn’t. For my dad and me, football became one of the many ways that we would connect—to create memories and share love while looking manly as we did it. This is a game that operates as a bridge between many fathers and sons throughout our country.
In six days, I will go to sleep at around 7 in the morning after my Graveyard shift and wake up at around noon. I will put my #12 wolf grey on and round up my three young boys—ages 3, 1 and a month old—and dress them in their Seahawks gear. My wife, a beautiful woman who had no desire to watch a football game with me two years ago and never understood my obsession, will watch as I pull a Wilson jersey over the head of my oldest boy. The obsession will come into focus for her. My boys won’t understand the magnitude that this game holds for me, but it won’t matter. I’ll be sharing with them something that my dad shared with me. Like he said, this is just the start.
Thank you, Field Gulls, for providing me a forum to pour out my heart. At the end of the day, that has been what has kept me a fanatical 12 for the past 24 years.
Let’s hear it, 12th Man. Use the comments selection below to pay homage to any fallen brothers and sisters you know that aren’t here to experience this.