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In announcing that veteran cornerback Marcus Trufant was being released on March 7, Seahawks general manager John Schneider selected his words very carefully.
There wasn’t the usual “we wish him well with his new team” caveat, or even the obligatory “we want to thank (fill in the blank) for his contributions to the franchise on and off the field,” that traditionally are attached to such transactions with players of Trufant’s status.
Because deep down, Schneider was hoping that the former first-round draft choice would be able to continue his career with his hometown NFL team. Hope became reality Monday, when Trufant agreed to terms on a one-year contract.
The salary-cap move afforded Trufant the opportunity to test the free-agent market, but now he is back with the team that made him the 11th overall pick on the 2003 NFL Draft – and the team he watched while growing up in Tacoma and growing into a Pro Bowl-caliber cornerback at Washington State University.
During his nine seasons with the Seahawks, Trufant has become a favorite – with his teammates, as well as the fans.
“I enjoyed playing with Tru,” said former wide receiver Bobby Engram, who was Trufant’s teammate from 2001-08 and is now the receivers coach at the University of Pittsburgh. “And he’s a great person off the field, as well. To me, that means just as much.”
Trufant was named the team’s Man of the Year in 2006 for his contributions in the community through his Trufant Family Foundation.
As for his on-field efforts, the readers of Seahawks.com voted Trufant to the franchise’s 35th Anniversary team in 2010 and the other players and coaches in the NFC voted him to the Pro Bowl in 2007 – after he posted a career-high seven interceptions and also produced 85 tackles.
Trufant became a starter as a rookie, and started 123 games over the next nine seasons. In 2004, he became the first cornerback in franchise history to lead the team in tackles (with a career-high 93) – and only the fourth corner in league history to do it.
From 2003 through 2008, he missed only two games – one in 2006 because of an ankle injury; the other in 2005 because Seattle had the no. 1 seed wrapped up entering the playoffs. But in 2009, Trufant missed the first six games after starting the season on the physically unable to perform list because of a back injury. After another 16-start season in 2010, Trufant was placed on injured reserve after four games last season, again because of a back situation.
But Trufant hasn’t just played for the Seahawks, he has played well. His 21 career interceptions are fifth in franchise history; his 370 return yards off those picks rank sixth; and his 604 tackles are 10th on the all-time list. He also has had double-digit totals in passes defensed seven times.
Where he fits in a defense that ranked ninth in the league last season remains to be seen. In his absence in 2011, rookie Richard Sherman stepped in and played well on the left side. On the right side, Brandon Browner finished his first NFL season by playing in the Pro Bowl. And the coaches remain high on Walter Thurmond, a third-year corner who missed 10 games last season with a broken ankle that required surgery.
But coach Pete Carroll is all about competition, and Trufant definitely has been a competitor during his career with the Seahawks.
And the fact that he has played his entire career – from pee-wee football, to Wilson High in Tacoma, to WSU, to the Seahawks – at “home” never has been lost on Trufant.
“I always say it’s like a storybook,” Trufant once said. “Most people don’t get to play in their hometown. God had a plan for me and it’s just playing out. It’s been good – the love and the support I get, and I’m close to my family.”
Trufant’s storybook of a career now will have at least one more chapter.