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The Silent Heart: Bobby Wagner's quiet ascension to the top of the Seahawks defense

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

"That's on me." It was the biggest quote that stuck with me at the conclusion of the 2012 season. It was uttered by Bobby Wagner as he took the blame on himself following the loss in Atlanta. Football has given me tears and tense moments of strain, emotions of such wild fluctuation I couldn't tell you where they would end up.

This small quote about a play that would have been hard for any player to make let alone a rookie linebacker who had meant so much in his first campaign made my heart hurt. It was like the kind of hurt you'd get when a significant other says they don't want to see you anymore. I just felt for this kid who had done nothing but impress all year.

Before Bobby, Seattle has had some talent at the inside linebacker position from the likes of Terry Beason, Keith Butler, Shelton Robinson even Anthony Simmons, but often, they had holes in their games in some form or fashion and so there was never much talk about Seattle's men in the middle, even when the '84 defense put up it's historical numbers. It wasn't even until Brian Bosworth arrived that the team had someone at linebacker is keyed on like a Lawrence Taylor or a Mike Singletary.

Anthony Simmons drafted by Mike Holmgren showed flashes but never stayed healthy. The first time Seattle had a linebacker recognized league-wide for his play in the middle was Lofa Tatupu. A 5'11" Over achiever Lofa became a big reason Seattle's defense jumped from 27th to 15th overall and 23rd against the run to 8th in 2005. Lofa did this with a tremendous work ethic and study habits, without much of the physical background in terms of size or measureables he stopped plays largely by recognition and a damn-near photographic memory. He made three Pro Bowls but eventually his limitations and series of tough injuries left him with almost no range and just barely getting by in 2010. He could still anticipate plays but without any range or short burst he went from 122 tackles in 2006 his best season, to just 88 tackles in 2010.

Up to that point Lofa had been the best middle linebacker to ever wear a Seahawks uniform and I still get chills sometimes when I watch old games -- you could see him recognize a play and get the jump on it. Follow that up with a slightly flashy big hitter in David Hawthorne and it just wasn't the same.

In 2011, his only campaign as Seattle's full time Middle Linbacker, he notched 115 tackles recorded 2 sacks and had 3 INTs. It was statistically comparable to Lofa but again, there was range issues as David played most of that season on a bad knee.

In 35 years at that point Seattle had one well known name at a key spot in it's defense. One. Think about all the defenses you know, The bears with Mike Singletary or Brian Urlacher, The Ravens with Ray Lewis. The Steelers with Jack Lambert, The Raiders defense with Matt Millen. There's always that heart beat in the middle. That general making sure he controls that front line in the trenches and Seattle had not ever really had a complete player at that spot.

The 2012 draft hit and Bobby Wagner came to us. I can remember my feeling of wait and see. I liked his highlights. The kid liked to tackle and always finished. He looked really well-rounded and aware but I will always remember the day he sold me as a fan. It was against Dallas in week 2 that year and he came across the field from his Middle linebacker spot to stop a run that gained about seven yards, It wasn't a big play but I remember my brain locking that in and saying "Hey, this kid is a bit different now." It was not just the speed but the force on the stop, the explosive nature of the play and how I hadn't seen anything like that since the oft injured Anthony Simmons.

After that play during the rest of the 2012 season I made it a mission to track the kid's stats. Ten tackles. Twelve tackles. Fourteen tackles. I always awaited the stats updates for this fiery intense rookie who was threatening to rewrite record books after his 14 tackle performance against New England in week six, a game which cemented one rookie in the minds of fans in Russell Wilson, while one went unnoticed but for blurbs about tackles by Hawkblogger and the like on Twitter. Even the local media missed the boat for the most part on this kid's game and season.

Maybe it was the way quarterbacks seize our imagination or the way the season ended with a letdown and in such a fashion that it was Wagner at the focal point of the play, but I felt personally more attached to his growth year one to year two with Bobby. His stat line had gone from 4 solo tackles in the first two weeks to 81 total solo tackles in the remaining 14 games and I just imagined a year of growth but was also scared of a kid holding on to a heartbreaking play. Plays like that affect a rookie and a shy trigger is the worst.

However he came out of the gate strong and had an even better season than the one before despite missing two games, and even having a bit of trouble pulling the trigger through two games, he compiled 89 solo stops with 5 sacks and 2 Interceptions. He had become that playmaker in the middle that the Seahawks needed and he hadn't fallen off into a sophomore slump despite some rocky moments.

He's recorded 241 solo stops in 40 games started, 41 games played  He has 397 total stops including assists in just 3 seasons or an average on 132 stops a season. I don't know how we missed it, I don't know how why we undersold it, but he has quietly been the best player on the Seahawks' defense at helping alter drives -- with his sacks, tackles for loss, and pass defense against backs and tight ends. It's really worth a good look and since our five game stretch without him, I don't think fans will ever underestimate his worth again.

It's hard sometimes when the man is so quiet about his play, when the Shermans and Thomases of the world make so many plays and let you know about it through their intense attitude or showmanship. Bobby has never been a guy to speak a lot save for the short "Fine, blame me" quote on twitter following back-to-back 200 yard running days vs the defense. He says next to nothing about himself and so sometimes he's taken a bit for granted. I hope this piece, though not stat centric, will help fans understand more of what he has brought to this team.

A heart, a will, a fire, though quiet, it burns bright every game and reaches out to those who want that blue collar, bring your lunch pale and shut up work that we all think we would, given the chance in the same spot. This one is for you Bobby, we know what you mean to our team and we hope, I hope, you'll define it for decades to come. That when that final whistle sounds, your name is up there with the Jack Lambert and Mike Singletary legacies. Except that you'd be ours. A Seahawk legacy that has been waiting some 39 years to be written.