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Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas look to Ray Lewis, Ed Reed for Super Bowl success
"We're trying to be great and we feel like we can be great together. We're trying to be similar to Ed Reed and Ray Lewis."
Those were the words of newly-minted second-year linebacker Bobby Wagner back on July 25, 2013, on his budding relationship with Seahawks free safety Earl Thomas. They came on the very first day of Seahawks training camp at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center, as Wagner and the Seahawks were relishing in a long-awaited return to the practice field.
The club was still carrying the bad taste of a 2012 last-second divisional playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons, forced to play spectator for the remainder of the postseason as the linebacker Lewis, free safety Reed and their Baltimore Ravens battled the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl XLVII. The Ravens would secure the victory, the second Super Bowl championship for the seasoned-veteran Lewis and first for the 12-year pro Reed.
"They just worked together as a team," Wagner said this past week of his and Thomas' affinity for the Ravens' Lewis and Reed. "Ray [Lewis] kind of ran the defense, the front seven, and Ed Reed ran the back four. It was just about having the chemistry between the two."
The 13-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro selection Lewis has since retired from the game, while the nine-time Pro Bowler and eight-time All-Pro selection Reed took his talents to the Houston Texans, and eventually, the New York Jets. Their pairing was pivotal to the Ravens' Super Bowl success last season, and it's one the fast, physical, and hard-hitting tandem of Wagner and Thomas have looked to replicate.
"When you look at a team you always look for reasons why they're so successful," Thomas said of last year's Super Bowl winners. "I think the 'Mike' linebacker and the free safety are the two main quarterback positions of the defense. We definitely have that same connection, that same one that Ray Lewis and Ed Reed had. And that's why they were so successful winning championships."
"He's grown so much," Thomas said of Wagner. "He's learned how to harness that speed. This guy is one of the most athletic guys we have on this team and just to see him run from sideline to sideline is special.
"You can't coach speed," Thomas emphasized. "That's what separates even me - speed. Speed kills. And this guy has learned to get off blocks, use his arms more, and really have that feel and rhythm. He's hitting that constantly now. He's a more consistent, reliable, and impact football player."
Coach Pete Carroll has also taken note of Wagner's sound play over the second half of the season. Last week, Carroll noted the Utah State product has taken complete command of the team's defensive calls and adjustments.
"Whether it's a practice or a walk-through he treats it like it's a game," Wagner said of Thomas. "You're going to play how you practice, so if you practice how you play in the game, every single day you're going to get better.
"I think he's one of the best safeties in the game, and I'm just trying to be one of the best linebackers in the game," Wagner summed. "It's just a process."
It's a process Wagner and Thomas are hoping will culminate this Sunday akin to the way their guides Lewis and Reed ended their 2012 campaign - with the hoisting of the Lombari Trophy. Read