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The joy of discovering an unexpected cult hero

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San Francisco 49ers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

By the very nature of the position, the best offensive linemen are usually the ones who go the most unnoticed. But for 27 games over two years, D.J. Fluker made himself very well known to the Seahawks and their fans. More than that, he made himself beloved.

That seems wild for a franchise who has had no fewer than four Hall of Famers, and several more greats, don its jersey over the last decade. But for every incredible player who came through and left a lasting impression, there has been a fan favorite, loved for something besides their play, who remain similarly memorable.

There was Kam Chancellor, the undisputed alpha male every time he touched the field. Then there is Luke Willson, he of his trademark hair and “Techno Thursdays.”

There was Doug Baldwin, a route running savant. Then there was, and is again, Bruce Irvin, who batted leadoff for Seattle’s famous 2012 draft class, adopted Chris Clemonssack celebration and seemingly romanticizes the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning team even more than fans do.

There was Richard Sherman, the proud voice of the LOB. Then there was Red Bryant, who went from miscast defensive tackle to a starter on, and leader of, one of the best defenses of all-time.

There was Marshawn Lynch—what more needs to be said? Then there was Michael Robinson, a quarterback-turned-fullback whose Real Rob Report gave curious minds a look into a Seahawks locker room exploding with personality and brimming with talent.

It seemingly fits, then, that Fluker’s arrival in Seattle coincided with the transition to the Seahawks being completely, indisputably, Russell Wilson’s team. Somehow, as Wilson was raising his level of play even further and putting together back-to-back MVP caliber seasons, Fluker captivated fans. He delivered a steady performance at a position that had been anything but in Seattle, sure, but it was more than that.

It was just a force of will—Fluker’s play and his personality quickly endeared himself to a run-first team and a passionate fan base, embodying what the Seahawks wanted to be as a football team. He arrived with a reputation for being intense and quickly proved it to be true.

Despite only suiting up against the Rams once during Ndamukong Suh’s lone season in L.A., Fluker seemingly made it his personal mission to impose his will on the defensive tackle, who is usually the baddest dude in the room, on and off the field.

To hear Fluker describe his battle with Suh might as well have been hearing him deliver his ethos as an offensive lineman: “Wherever he needs to go, I’m going to take him there. I ain’t scared of no one, I’m not gonna back down from no one.”

Fluker’s ass-kicking approach to offensive line play helped Seattle to a league-best 2,560 yards rushing in 2018. He enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career while the Seahawks vaulted back into the playoff picture. Along the way, Fluker took on all challengers and gleefully pancaked them along his path with the force of a Chancellor hit over the middle of the field.

For as large as Fluker played in the trenches, his personality shined even bigger off the field. His boisterous temperament made a name like Danny Lee Jesus Fluker feel not too grand, but fitting of the rock star he was. His starring role in the recreation of Russell Wilson’s infamous contract announcement will long be fondly remembered.

It’s fitting Fluker’s last memorable moment came in his penultimate game for the club, helping to tackle Marshawn Lynch—two kindred football spirits meeting on the two-yard line—across the goal line. It was forceful and unmistakable, and in that manner, quintessentially Fluker.

The Seahawks moved on from Fluker on Sunday, with the hulking guard announcing it himself by thanking Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and the city of Seattle. Still a serviceable starter, he’ll surely find a new team in no time, with his brief stop on the Seahawks being just a moment in his career.

However, like the lovable personalities that predated him on the Seahawks, and those that remain, Fluker will be remembered fondly—a cult hero in a sports city that has had its fair share of icons. The pancaking of opposition defensive tackles, the fired up moments on the sideline, and the somehow even more fired up moments in the locker room made him a true joy to watch and to cover. It wasn’t what anyone expected when he first signed a modest one-year deal in the spring of 2018, but I sure am grateful for it.

For the last word, I’ll turn it over to the man himself. Thanks for helping to make football fun, Fluker.