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And the 2009 recipient of the Steve Largent Award is …
Matt Hasselbeck. The announcement was made Thursday and the Seahawks’ quarterback will be presented with his trophy Sunday prior to kickoff of season finale against the Tennessee Titans at Qwest Field.
There are two surprising twists to a quarterback being given an award that is named after the franchise’s Hall of Fame wide receiver. First, it’s the first time Hasselbeck has won it – and it’s only the second time in 21 years that it has gone to a QB.
“It’s quite an honor, it really is,” he said after the team’s New Year’s Eve practice.
In typical Hasselbeck fashion, he followed that with this self-deprecating kicker, “I’d like to count the votes, though. I’m a little suspicious. I really thought there were more deserving people this year.”
The Largent award – and the impressive trophy that goes with it – is presented each season to the player who “best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks” and the past winners create a Who’s Who of many of the best players in franchise history.
Largent won the first award in 1989, his final season. Since then it has gone to, in order, Jacob Green, Rufus Porter, Jeff Bryant and Joe Nash, Eugene Robinson, Brian Blades, Terry Wooden, Cortez Kennedy, Winston Moss, Michael Sinclair, Chad Brown, Ricky Watters, Mack Strong (twice), Trent Dilfer, Strong (three times), Bobby Engram and, last year, departing coach Mike Holmgren.
Finally, it goes to Hasselbeck, who has embodied everything the award represents since coming to the Seahawks in 2001.
“It’s a special honor,” Hasselbeck said. “And it’s voted on by your teammates, so that’s very important. It’s a very cool trophy, and I’ll find a place for it.”
But it also comes at a time where he has had back-to-back games that are out of character for him.
Hasselbeck has thrown eight interceptions and also lost a fumble in the losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers. This from a QB who threw only nine interceptions in 16 starts during the team’s run to the Super Bowl in 2005 and 12 in 2007, the last season he started all 16 games.
“I do think about it – or did think about it,” Hasselbeck said. “It’s something I’m definitely focused on – not dwelling on but focused on, aware of. I know why. I look at the turnovers all separately. As a quarterback, there’s a fine line between cutting it loose, making plays and also being careless or forcing things and being desperate with the ball.
“You’ve really got to protect it, and when you let it go you’ve got to let it go confidently or it’s not going to work. Those are some lessons. But you can’t go out there and play timid or scared, either. You’ve got to be aggressive, and at the same time be smart.”
Hasselbeck obviously has given the situation ample thought. But he also needs some help, and offensive coordinator Greg Knapp says it must start with him.
“I’ve got to help,” Knapp said. “Four of Matt’s picks came in the second half when we’re down by three scores, so I as a play-caller am trying to get that big play to get us back in it.
“I’ve got to be a little smarter and help out the offense by saying, ‘All right, let’s just take the completions and work our way back into it.’ ”
The prime example of that came in the Week 9 game against the Detroit Lions at Qwest Field. The Seahawks fell behind 17-0 in the first quarter, but didn’t panic. They took what was there. Hasselbeck completed a career-high 39 passes, including a string of 15 in a row that tied for second-most in club history, in rallying the Seahawks to a 32-20 victory.
“That’s going to be our intention this week,” Knapp said. “Take the profit and move on and let’s not try to force the issue.” Read