Marquand Manuel has been where the Seahawks are about to go.
Not New Jersey. Or even MetLife Stadium. All the Seahawks were just there last month for a Week 15 game against the New York Giants. Manuel’s return engagement is the Super Bowl.
He was the free safety on the 2005 team that played in Super Bowl XL against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Detroit. Manuel is now a defensive assistant coach on the 2013 team that will face the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 at MetLife Stadium.
Not surprisingly, Manuel’s most memorable playoff moments – as a player and a coach – are from the NFC Championship games that sent the Seahawks to the only Super Bowl appearances in franchise history.
First, Manuel the player.
“The interception in the NFC Championship game,” Manuel said. “That’s the one I remember the most.”
It came on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2006, during the first quarter of the Seahawks’ 34-14 victory over the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field. On a first-and-10 play from the Panthers’ 36-yard line, Jake Delhomme went to Kerry Colbert at the 49-yard line, only to find Manuel. The Seahawks’ free safety returned the interception 32 yards, setting up a 1-yard touchdown run by Shaun Alexander that pushed the Seahawks’ lead to 17-0.
“It stands out because everyone had given me a lot of flack about not having a lot of interceptions – the whole team, even coach (Mike) Holmgren,” Manuel said. “When I caught it and returned it, the whole team was celebrating, because they wanted me to do well. So that’s why that one stands out.”
But there’s a backstory to Manuel’s first interception of that season that saw the Seahawks post a 13-3 record which included a club-record 11-game winning streak. He stepped into the lineup in Week 7, after Ken Hamlin sustained life-threatening head injuries during an altercation outside a Seattle nightspot following the Seahawks’ Week 6 win over the Houston Texans.
Manuel not only stepped in, he stepped up and played better than Hamlin had been – which is saying a lot. Manuel finished third on the team with 67 tackles and generally took control on the back end. That’s because he had been a starter with the Cincinnati Bengals (2002-03) before signing with the Seahawks in 2004 – he also played with the Green Bay Packers (2006), Panthers (2007), Broncos (2008) and Detroit Lions (2009).
“Sunday,” he said, referring to the 23-17 victory over the defending conference champion San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game at CenturyLink that sent the 2013 Seahawks – who also complied a 13-3 record in the regular season – to the Super Bowl.
“This was my first experience as a coach watching the guys that I deal with everyday relish in something that I’ve seen, and know how hard it is to get to. The feeling was, ‘If that’s what coaching is, then I’m in the right place.’ So it was that feeling, coming out and just seeing the guys in that moment. It wasn’t one play, it was just that moment.”
And it’s a moment that Manuel has now experienced as a player and a coach.
“That’s the unique part of this whole thing,” he said. “Just being able to watch these guys accomplish their goals and help them do it, it’s been amazing. It’s like, ‘I’ve seen the movie, I’m glad you’re seeing it.’”