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All in the family
By winning the Steve Largent Award, Red Bryant has joined a Who’s Who of the best players in franchise history over the past 23 seasons:
A smiling, but sleepy-eyed, Red Bryant was holding court in front of his cubicle, regaling reporters with tales from his less-than-24-hour stint as a new father and nodding in agreement as he was reminded of all the pivotal plays he had made on the field during the Seahawks’ 5-1 start to the second half of the season.
As the locker room session was winding down last Thursday, the team’s kick-blocking, run-stuffing, pass-intercepting defensive end let out a sigh that was almost as big as he is and offered, “I’m just extremely blessed. My wife is doing great. My son is doing great. 2011 has just been a great year. I can’t thank God enough. He’s truly been good to me.”
The next day, Bryant found out he had been voted this season’s recipient of the Steve Largent Award, which has been presented annually since 1989 to the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks. Bryant was presented the impressive trophy that accompanies the honor – and his place in franchise history – by general manager John Schneider on Saturday just before kickoff of the team’s home finale at CenturyLink Field.
Also on hand was Jacob Green, the 1990 recipient of the Largent Award who just happens to be Bryant’s father-in-law. Green and his wife, Janet, and their other two daughters, Jessica and Jillian, were actually in town for the Christmas weekend – and also because their oldest daughter and Bryant’s wife, Janelle, had just given birth to Joseph Brooks Bryant on Wednesday.
But Green’s presence at the game against the San Francisco 49ers made for a nice generational transition – just the latest bridge between son-in-law and father-in-law, as Bryant is wearing the same number (79) and playing the same position (left defensive end) that Green did during his Ring of Honor career with the team (1980-91). Now, each also has a Largent Award.
“That award is probably the most prestigious award you can get as a Seahawk,” Green said on the sideline, just before the trophy presentation. “It’s right up there with the Ring of Honor.”
That’s because it’s named after the franchise’s first superstar – Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, who won the first award in 1989, the same season he retired as the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions, receiving yards and touchdown catches.
But with Largent, as with those who also have won his award, it was more than just the things he did on the field that set him apart. Largent was – and is – a better person than he was a player.
“Steve Largent was undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever play here,” Green said. “But he also was a personal friend. So when I got that award, I couldn’t have gotten anything better. That was the peak of my career when I got the Largent Award.”
And now his son-in-law has won it, in the same week that Green became a grandfather for the first time.
“And Red got it an early age,” Green said with a smile. “It took me years.”
Green did win his in his 11th season with the Seahawks, but that’s because it wasn’t there to be won until Largent announced his plans to retire and the club came up with the perfect way to honor him – annually.
“That award is what the Seahawks are all about,” Green said. “So I’m very proud of Red for having won it. He deserves it. He’s played hard. His teammates voted on it. So that’s quite an honor to have that happen.”
And it happened in Bryant’s first full season as a starter. All Bryant has done this season is block four kicks (three field goals and a PAT); intercept two passes, and return one for the touchdown; and anchor one of the better run defenses in the league.
“It’s definitely special when your peers think that highly of you,” Bryant said in the locker room after the game. “I’m extremely grateful. I love my teammates. My teammates love me. It’s an honor to win this award.”
Being able to share the moment with Green made it even more special.
“When I told him (Friday) that I was going to receive the award, he was extremely happy for me,” Bryant said. “And he also told me that he won it, too, and how prestigious it was and what an honor it truly is. So I’m extremely grateful to win it.”
Unlike Green, Bryant never played with Largent. But No. 80’s place in club history is there for everyone to see – in the rafters at CenturyLink Field, where Largent’s retired number hangs; in the hallway that leads to the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where huge banners of the 10 people in the Ring of Honor hang.
“If you’re a Seahawk, you know who Steve Largent is,” Bryant said. “So to win an award that’s named after him, I can’t put into words how honored I am to receive this award.”