Standing nearly six-feet tall, weighing in at 200 pounds, Washington State University Cornerback Marcus Trufant was the 11th overall pick of the 2003 draft, becoming a member of the Seattle Seahawks, his hometown team. It's strange, I was sitting here at my desk eager to pick up the news on the Hawks as everything starts to heat up with the draft and free agency. I was then faced with the news of Marcus Trufant's eventual release. It's not like I hadn't expected it, because I did; for me, it was the only conclusion that I could come to on any of the major moves ahead of the Seahawks organization this off season. It still didn't stop the little twinge that hit me in the chest, or the memories that came up about him and his relation to my memories of this team.
For me, Marcus was the first player I ever saw drafted by the Seahawks, back in April of 2003. I was still a newbie to football in general. I didn't even know how to judge the pick actually. Years removed from that day and improved knowledge about the position versus Marcus' abilities, I can say as an 11th pick in the draft, he was worth it. He came in his rookie year, joining an aged defense with a few upside guys like Kenny Hamlin and Rocky Bernard. Marcus was the first of a line of new players that would reshape the 'Hawks defense.
The thing that anyone noticed about Marcus the instant he stepped on the field was his physicality. He was strong, he'd go on to be a top tackler for the Seahawks notching a total of 74 solo tackles (83 total) and 2 INTS in his rookie campaign. Mike Holmgren lobbied for him to receive rookie of the year honors but he wouldn't get much of a mention. Marcus' campaign wasn't easy either, he drew 18 pass interference flags over the course of the season. His style got him noticed by the refs a ton and he was young and too aggressive at times. He got his fair share of wins though, knocking down an impressive 20 passes.
It's his sophmore campaign that is most impressive in his first few seasons, notching 86 solo tackles (96 total) with 5 INTs and another round of 20 passes defended. I often pointed to this season when Seahawk fans were questioning Trufant's value to the team when his contract year came up in 2007. A lot of fans didn't even realize he had been the top tackler on that team by a pretty good margin in 2004.
Marcus never complained despite being asked to switch from the left to the right side in 2005 so that incoming free agents Kelly Herndon and Andre Dyson could compete for the job that he had, by all measures, earned the right to hold. The talk at the time by the brass was that this was more of a move to preserve Marcus' future due to a shoulder injury. He wasn't nearly the same guy those two seasons on the right side in terms of his impact. He took a lot of heat in the Seahawks Mailbag in 2006 for not having enough big plays for the 11th overall pick.
Trufant returned to his home in 2007 though and he'd make the Pro Bowl, putting up another 78 solo tackles (85 total) with 7 INTs and 15 Passes defensed. It was a nice season at the office for Marcus, who helped turn a pair of games and seal a playoff game in impressive fashion.
I loved this quote by Mike Holmgren about Trufant in 2007 when they drafted him and his deserving contract extension.
"The thing is, when you look at a guy that high in the draft, you're looking very hard at the key attributes that set him apart, you have all the measurements and all the personality tests, but there's always this thing you need to see that sets them out from the group."
"Marcus now, he had that, when you watched film and you'd see him make moves and cuts and how fluid he moved, I guess you'd call it hip spin, or hip snap. It was just this kinda thing where you say - Hey. Now this is rare to see."
I didn't really understand what Holmgren meant until I saw Ken Lucas, a similar sized guy who didn't have any of the fluid motion, smooth cuts and just always looked like he wore cement shoes. I never understood how athletes so similar could be so different when it came to athletics and command of their skills. It seems silly in retrospect, but it was a light bulb moment for me.
To me, he's the one piece that went unmentioned at times when talking about the Seahawks success. He was a hometown kid made good who gave his best effort on the field every time he was the last line to the endzone, you never saw him pull up or roll his shoulders in defeat. Once making three saving tackles in the horrific 200+ yard day for Frank Gore. Gore could have had 5 TDs in that game had Marcus just jogged or just let himself be blocked, but that wasn't his style. He put on his Seahawk jersey and played every down hard, like they all mattered. Even though it won't end how any of us would have wanted, watching Marcus play football from day one to the final games last year, I always knew he cared.
Whenever a beloved played leaves your team you're bound to have a few key memories and plays come to mind.
My favorite memory of Marcus, just for me, was when he made a superb play to finally keep Torry Holt out of the endzone. It was 2007. Torry Holt was the one opponent that I always knew as Marcus' arch-nemesis. Every time they matched up, Holt caught touchdowns against him, for whatever reason. Holt just had Trufant's number, it seemed. Holt would use the double move, every time, in the redzone and somehow Truf would always be just a step too late. I got to the point where I expected it to happen.
In 2007, however, Torry tried the same move against him in St. Louis. Truf was there to meet him though and deflected the pass away. He had countless other deflections his career, but the key one in the endzone made my jaw drop. I rewound my DVR to make sure I had it right. Trufant matched him step for step and deflected the pass away beautifully. After seasons of watching this same play unfold and having the outcome predestined I turned to my friend Sean, to be sure I had seen what had happened right.
"Did you see him defend that double move? HE NEVER DOES THAT!"
"Yeah, I always knew the double move was coming, that was AMAZING!"
I hate the Rams with filthy passion so this memory will always be pretty sweet for me.
I figured a good way to see Marcus off would be to share, in as much detail as possible, your favorite memories of Marcus Trufant as a Hawk, below.
Good luck to you Marcus, wherever your career may lead you.