On Wednesday, I got the chance to represent the Field Gulls team and SB Nation in an interview with Seahawks legend and former All-Pro running back Curt Warner. Curt played for the Seahawks in the 1980s and was a star in his era. A multiple pro-bowler, he also received a first team All-Pro selection in 1987 and multiple other second-team All-Pro selections. In 1994, Curt was inducted into the Seahawks ring of honor – which boasts 11 total members, including Walter Jones, Dave Krieg, Steve Largent, and Jim Zorn, among others.
The Comcast X1 Sports App Team was gracious enough to host us and provide us with an ample opportunity to ask Curt all the questions I wanted. Without further ado, let’s jump into the interview.
You were selected 3rd overall out of Penn State – and Seattle wanted you bad. Did Chuck Knox have any conversations with you before they drafted you?
"Yes he did as a matter of fact. He came up to State College Pennsylvania – where I was at the time... and he and his wife Shirley – we had lunch over at the Nittany Lion Inn. We just kind of talked. The only question I remember out of that discussion -- and I don’t even remember how long we had lunch – maybe it was an hour or so. I don’t remember all the details but I do remember him asking me: "Would you like to play for the Seahawks?"
I had already looked at the map, the state map, because I knew it was way out there somewhere. If he had asked me probably before that, I would have probably said, "Nah its okay – its too far away". But I said, "Sure, yes I would love to come and play for you".
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Not thinking that – they were number nine so they weren’t going to get me. So I’m like fine – yeah you want to buy me lunch and you want to talk some football? Fine yeah, you want me to play for you – fine. I’ll say whatever you want – but I didn’t think they were going to do it."
Who did you think was going to pick you?
"I don’t know because I didn’t know where I was going in the draft. I knew I was going to go early... but I didn’t know how early. I didn’t know it was going to be three. So my agent, Marvin Demoff, kind of behind the scenes...Elway to Marino – you’ve seen that on ESPN? That’s my agent. But he never did say anything about me – but I think they did mention something about it. But it was more a quarterback deal at the time."
What was it like stepping into the role of offensive engine as a rookie? Was there much of a position battle?
"Not really – no."
You break your first play from scrimmage for 60 yards against Kansas City; do you remember what went through your mind after?
"Yeah, it was HOT. It was really hot. It was like 111 degrees on that turf. It was 111 – I mean you could see the fumes coming up from the carpet. You know it’s hot. You know – I played back East where it’s humid. You have humidity but not like that. It was a tough day. Did we win or lose – I don’t remember? That’s how hot it was."
If you were coming into the NFL today or preparing yourself to go into the NFL while you were in college or high school, would you still choose to be a running back or would you switch to a different position due to the fact that corners or safeties are usually paid more in 2015 and have longer careers?
"No, you are what you are. You don’t worry about what you’re getting paid and what you’re not getting paid. You find a position you like and you play that position regardless – whether they’re paying you nothing."
Upon entering the NFL – was there anyone that immediately took you under their wing? Any veteran guys?
"No. They were mean and nasty and ugly. No – when you’re a rookie you have to get up and sing, do all this hazing stuff, they were not nice. I didn’t like any of them – I couldn’t stand them! I didn’t want to be around them. (laughing)"
Who was the worst?
"Dave Brown. He made me get up and do a donut report. I kid you not – we had to bring donuts in. The rookies, we had to bring food in. So I was in charge of the donut patrol. So I had to gather all the guys up – and obviously we got to do this... this day you’re going to bring them and I’m going to bring them on this day. I had to sort of direct that – that was a big responsibility. And then...I remember one time we were so fed up with it (the veterans). But we would never say that publicly – just mumble amongst ourselves.... because it's sort of a pecking order...here’s where you are...doesn’t matter who you are. You’re a rookie. Everyone calls you rookie, "Hey rookie!".
I don’t play like a rookie – that’s all that matters. I remember one time we decided to bring in just plain donuts because the guys had their particular donuts...it wasn’t me, I didn’t bring them in..I caught grief the whole day because of it."
From your Seahawk days – what guys do you still keep in contact with?
"Dave Krieg, Steve Largent, Randall Morris, Alonzo Mitz, Nesby Glasgow, Kenny Easley – yeah I stay in contact with a bunch of them."
I know you played in LA for a year with the Rams. With all the talk of them potentially moving to LA – would you be in support of a move like that?
"It doesn’t matter to me."
What skills do modern backs often lack that they would have needed to be successful in your era; with the flipside being, what part of your game would you have to work on the most to be successful nowadays?
"I think that the thing – as a running back.... instinctively you know how to run. So that’s a given. Secondly, some guys can catch and some guys can’t. I think that’s a given – guys should be able to catch the football. The third thing is: you must know pass protection. And you got to know who to block and when to block – I think that’s the most important thing. You got to know pass protection and you got to know the plays. You got to know the playbook. You don’t know the playbook and you don’t know where to line up – you’re not going to play. You can be the best athlete in the world but if you don’t know who to get and how to get them – you’re not going to play. Not here in the NFL. You’re just not going to play.
"You got to know the basic, you need to know who you’re going to pick up, and you got to know who to block...and stick your nose in there and do things you don’t necessarily want to do. As a runner – you obviously want to run. But no – you got to do other stuff too."
Can you compare your style of cutback running to contemporary ZBS (Zone Blocking Scheme) "one-cut-and-go" backs? (Obviously Lynch, but also Arian Foster and Shady McCoy.)
"Well...I was a one-cut-and-go back. And that was instilled in me by Coach Paterno. He would say – you got one cut and you make your one move and you need to get up the field. In high school – you know...you could kind of do the song and dance and take the ball all the way around. In college and the pros – you got to get up the field."
Who was the best defensive player you played against – and why?
"You know there were a lot of good guys. Well – Lawrence Taylor was the most intimidating of all of them. You knew where he was on the field at all times. But there were a lot of great players. He was just a cut above. And Easley was one of those kinds of guys as well. You had to know where he was. There were certain guys where you needed to know where they are...and pay attention to them. They could make life tough on you. He was one of those guys.
"Kam Chancellor is one of those guys. Kenny Easley was that big hitting strong safety. It was just...I don’t know how they did it. I couldn’t ever be a defensive guy. He would just run through the wall."
Chuck Knox was your head coach while you played in the 80s – in what ways do you think he is similar or different to how Pete Carroll runs things?
"I think he’s a great organizer – which you have to be. A great motivator. A leader from the perspective of: here’s the direction we’re going to go in....and you need to get on board and follow. He promotes teamwork, unity, camaraderie, and all those type of things. There was a certain core of principles that you had to live by and I think Pete Carroll does a great job with that. His guys are on board.
"If you get guys on board, they’ll do anything you ask them to do. You lose the team, they don’t like you – they don’t want to play for you. You’re done, they’re not going to play for you."
Would you have liked to play for Pete Carroll?
"Oh yeah...why not? He’s business focused too at the same time and he knows how to get his team prepared. Assistant coaches do a great job of preparing the team. They know what they want to do – they know what they’re good at doing and that’s what they do. And they don’t change it up as much – they bring the guys in. You can say: 'Well, it’s simple. Well you can say you got great athletes and you can also say you got great football players who can play football.'
"It’s one thing to have guys who wind up out there but it’s another thing to have players play the game. See, there’s a game inside the game. There’s a game you draw up in the 'X and O screen,' and then there’s the game that you got to play inside of it – because you got to make adjustments all the time. You’re constantly adjusting and you better do it at full speed and better anticipate what’s going on and what’s coming your way before it happens. That’s the game inside of the game."
What type of impact do you think Fred Jackson will have on this team? Was that a good signing?
"If Lynch goes down – there’s going to be a void regardless of whom you put in. There’s a big difference between the guy who starts and the guy who’s not starting."
There has been much speculation regarding Lynch’s future replacement…how much do you think Marshawn has left in the tank?
"That’s a good question – I don’t know. How old is he?"
Lynch is 29 and turning 30 this next season.
"30...31...that’s the number. You know why people say that number? It’s because it’s the number of hits. It’s not how old you are. It’s the number of hits you take. After a while – you get hit and you physically have issues where you can’t do the things you used to...you’ve got hit a lot of times...and at some point you just don’t perform as well as when you were 21. There’s a difference between 21 and 31 in the NFL.
In life in general, people will say: well – you look a little older but not that much older. In football, it’s like going from 0 to 99. And pretty soon, you just can’t play anymore. You just don’t have it, mentally or physically. When does this happen? I don’t know. But at some point, it does happen."
So do you think this is Marshawn’s last season?
"No – well that’s his call...he seems to be running hard. As long as he’s getting up the field and he’s running crazy...then he can play as he keeps running. When he stops producing, we’ll all know. But right now – I don’t see him slowing down. I don’t see it happening."
It would seem that coaches and teams today fall much more in line with the belief that running backs are easily replaceable (aside from the Marshawn Lynches of the world), than they did in the past. What do you think is fueling those beliefs?
"The pass-game. The NFL is a passing league. You’re not focused on the run – you’re focused on the pass. The quarterback, not that I have anything against quarterbacks, but you can’t hit them. Receivers – you come across the middle...you got to be a little more careful. It’s the NFL – it’s how they’ve changed the game."
Do you like how the NFL has changed?
"Yes and no. I think you have to be aware of the fact that if you – in collisions on a regular basis – it’s going to take a toll on you. But that’s the game. You can’t take the game and turn it into – you ever watch the Pro Bowl? Do you like it?"
Yes I’ve watched the Pro Bowl – but I don’t like it.
"Did you like the Pro-Bowl? Did you like anything about the Pro-Bowl? It’s like playing touch. Is that the game you want?"
Its flag-football is what it is.
"Well there you go. Do you want flag football? Now, they’re not there yet – but you don’t want it to get to that extreme. For example – when I was playing, they would allow you to do what they call the 'hog time' – is that what you call it? Where you role up on him? That’s how I got messed up – being rolled up on from the backside.
"They let you grab the pant up on the pants now. To me, they shouldn’t allow you to do that. They shouldn’t allow you to come in and spear them with your head and with the helmet. So there’s certain things – or doing the big slap alongside the guy’s head. There’s certain thing; we don’t need to do that.
"We can still play tackle without doing that. There are still times when you come across that middle, okay, there’s going to be a penalty for doing that. That’s changed as well. As long as they don’t go to the extreme – I think it’s still pretty competitive. They’re still playing tackle – as long as they keep doing that and the fans are happy. But if we were playing like the Pro-Bowl, you wouldn’t watch it. Nobody would watch it. There’s a fine line between playing crazy and then playing the pro-bowl. There’s a difference between the two and as long as it stays where it’s at – it’ll still continue to move forward."
Who are your favorite current NFL running backs?
"I don’t know really have anybody in particular. I mean I like Marshawn Lynch. But I don’t have a favorite-favorite."
Did you ever come close to holding out? How would you feel if a teammate chose to hold out?
"No, not really. I would not be upset about it. He’s got to do – on one hand, he’s got a business and a family. He’s got to do what is best for him. Usually – the rule of thumb is next man up...next guy has to step up."
So does that mean you support the Kam Chancellor holdout?
"No – it doesn’t mean I support it, but I understand where he’s coming from. He has to make that decision based on what he thinks is best for him. Now – obviously, you want to see him play. The Seahawks want to see him play. I’m sure all the Seahawks fans want to see him play. I’m sure you want to see him play. But, he’s got to do what he’s got to do. Now – there’s always different arguments.
"Well, he’s got a contract. Well yeah, but it’s a one year contract...so it’s not locked in. He’s got to do what he’s got to do. He’s been in the Super Bowl twice, he’s a leader on the Seahawks defense, and he feels as though he should be paid more. That’s between him and the Seahawks to figure that out. But right now, they haven’t figured it out."
Do you think they will figure it out before Sunday? (Note: we were in the interview when the news broke that Kam would miss Sunday)
"Well...I don’t even know how – even if they didn’t figure it out...I don’t even know if he would play."
Well, he skipped all of training camp.
"That’s what I’m saying. There’s no way you could put him out there – even if he signed today. I know from my experience – if I was a running back and I hadn’t practiced – no way. If I hadn’t done anything for four weeks and all of a sudden you wanted to throw me out there with those crazy people – no, I don’t think so."
If we don’t have him at Green Bay, does Seattle lose that game?
"Ehhh, I don’t know. I don’t think it’s going to make it any easier. You know the probability of – because you have to ask yourself collectively if – there’s a level of optimum where you are. And you take one of those pieces out – you’re not the same team. Over a period of time – it loses its common thread that it has while it had at its full strength. Diminishing return to a certain degree. Whereas, you take him out of that defense, what are you taking that out of that total defense?
Is that next guy going to be able to make the same plays? You would hope. But...it’s not going to make it easy for them if he’s not in there."
How’s your knee doing? What are your thoughts about NFL players and long-term health repercussions?
"Oh...I’m fine. What are my thoughts? I think at some point it’s going to take its toll on you – depending on how long you played. You’re not going to come out the same. You know, I guess we’ll wait and see. That’s an ongoing question."
What’s your greatest NFL memory?
"There were quite a few...but I think what stands more so was in 1983 – when we went down and beat Miami. It was the game to get into the AFC championship game. I just think overall, it was a good game. We weren’t expected to win that one. We were the underdogs, all the way."
What are your predictions for this upcoming Seahawks season?
"Obviously, you want to get back to the big dance. I think that’s where - I mean they’ve been there twice. Why not go back three? That’s what I think everyone is expecting."
Do you think we get back to the Super Bowl?
"I think it’s going to be difficult. But if you’re not focused on there, then why play?"
And that concludes the interview. I hope you found it thought provoking and insightful. I would like to thank Curt Warner for being such a gracious interviewee and answering all my questions head-on without reservation. Curt was incredibly gracious and humorous throughout the entire interview. The Field Gulls team and I are incredibly thankful for his time and the gracious hospitality by the Comcast X1 Sports App Team.
The Comcast X1 Sports App team is also in the process of unveiling an exciting new operation system that takes watching sports and television to the next level. They gave me a demo and I can honestly say it was quite impressive. Watch this short gif to see a preview of what the new Comcast X1 Sports App can do:
For more information about their groundbreaking new product, you can read more about it here.
Until next time...Go Hawks.