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Bryan Walters and Clinton McDonald spent Media Day counting their blessings
NEWARK, N.J. – As Richard Sherman was staring into a sea of cameras and incredulously inquisitive faces, Bryan Walters was just standing in a corner smiling.
Their juxtaposition was not surprising, as the assembled masses at Super Bowl Media Day were looking for a story on Tuesday and expecting the Seahawks’ at-times outspoken All-Pro cornerback to provide it. The gaggle gathered around Sherman was at least twice, if not three times, as large as those at the podiums where coach Pete Carroll and quarterback Russell Wilson sat in the Prudential Center.
And then there was Walters, who was pretty much all by his lonesome with a pretty good story to share.
The fourth-year wide receiver grew up in Kirkland, where the Seahawks’ headquarters was located from 1986-2008, and was a three-sport star at Juanita High School before going to Cornell. He doesn’t play as much as Sherman, and therefore doesn’t make as many plays, but he has been bleeding Seahawks blue since before most of his teammates knew what a Seahawk was.
“This is something I always dreamed of – being at the Super Bowl with the Seahawks, with the chance to win and get the first ring for Seattle,” Walters said. “You can’t beat it.”
The last time the Seahawks played in the Super Bowl – the only other time they played in the Super Bowl – was after the 2005 season.
“I was a senior in high school,” Walters said. “I was rooting hard for them, just sitting on my couch and hoping they could pull it off.”
The Seahawks didn’t, losing 21-10 to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XL in Detroit. And a lot has changed for Walters and his hometown team since then.
The Seahawks made the playoffs in 2006 and 2007, but lost in the divisional round both times. That was followed by a 4-12 record in Mike Holmgren’s final season as coach and a 5-11 record in Jim Mora’s only season as coach. That led to Pete Carroll being hired in 2010, when the Seahawks became the first NFL team to win their division with a losing record (7-9), only to upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints in a very-wild wild-card game in Seattle. That season begat another, although more competitive, 7-9 record in 2011. Since then, the Seahawks have gone 24-8 in the regular season and 3-1 in the postseason.
Walters, meanwhile, went to Cornell, where he averaged 171.6 yards per game as a senior to rank fifth in the nation – and finish second in school history to Ed Marinaro, who was second in the Heisman Trophy balloting in 1971. Walters signed with the San Diego Chargers as a rookie free agent in 2010, and spent the final five weeks of that season on the practice squad. In 2011, he played in four games. He then signed with the Minnesota Vikings, but was released and ended up on the Seahawks’ practice squad in December of 2012. That’s also where he spent much of this season.
He might not even be active on Sunday, but that doesn’t lessen his excitement for what the Seahawks have a chance to accomplish.
“It’s quite the experience being here right now,” he said. “Look at how many people are here right now. A lot of people never experience this in their NFL career, guys who have been the league for 10-15 years and they’ve never been to the Super Bowl.”
Like Steve Largent, the Hall of Fame wide receiver and Seahawks’ all-time leading receiver who never advanced past a conference championship game. Like Cortez Kennedy, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who played in one playoff game in his career.
“So this is a blessing to be able to experience this,” Walters said.
In another corner of the hockey rink that is home to the New Jersey Devils, in the other “bullpen” for the defensive players who were not at one of the 17 podiums, Clinton McDonald was feeling equally blessed. The fifth-year defensive tackle was released on the roster cut to 53 players in August, only to be re-signed two weeks later. All McDonald did was produce 5.5 sacks, 35 tackles and an interception while filling the nose tackle spot in the nickel line used in passing situations.
“To be honest with you, this is a truly great experience,” said McDonald, who couldn’t stop smiling either. “It’s something different. Like a lot of guys say, you’ve got to take advantage of it because you never know when you’re going to get back to this position.
“So it’s something we want to take advantage of while we’re here. We enjoy the glitz and the glamour and the dog-and-pony show. But at the same time, the whole purpose for us being here is to play this game and to go out here the win this game.”
McDonald then paused briefly, before smiling again and offering, “It’s just a blessing to be here. So I can’t complain.”
Two good guys with two good stories who somehow managed to go all but unnoticed