From one hero to a group of Symetra Heroes

Posted Mar 14, 2014

Linebacker K.J. Wright, one of the heroes of the Seahawks’ Super Bowl victory, shared his story – not to mention the Lombardi Trophy – as the Seahawks honored the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom on Friday.

Amanda Hall was impressed enough by what already had transpired at CenturyLink Feld on Friday afternoon.

Hall, who teaches K-3 behavior intervention at Redmond Elementary School, was among the 16 teachers who were honored by the Seahawks as part of the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom program. They had just come from a luncheon and tour of the stadium the Super Bowl champion Seahawks call home.

“This is absolutely amazing,” Hall said, standing in front of a cubicle in the Seahawks’ locker room that had her name above it and was filled with mementoes of the occasion. “I am a huge Seahawks fan. My whole behavior system is around NFL football.”


The following teachers were recognized by the Seahawks on Friday as the Symetra Heroes in the Classroom:

Karen Alleman, St. Louise Parish School
Shereen Allen, Cascade K-8 Community School
Allison Bowhay, Echo Lake Elementary School
Vincent Davis, Nelsen Middle School
Doug Edelstein, Nathan Hale High School
Amanda Hall, Redmond Elementary
Robin Hicks, Roxhill Elementary School
Heather Ireland, Beaver Lake Middle School
Megan James, Lake Hills Elementary School
Jeannie Joseph, Issaquah Middle School
Gene Kolczynski, Lindbergh High School
Michelle McLaughlin, Sierra Heights Elementary School
D.J. Reed, Kent-Meridian High School
Stephanie Rietman, Shorecrest High School
Jan Sayers, Mercer Island High School
Alison Torres, Aki Kurose Middle School

But the best was yet to come, as Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright addressed the group – accompanied by the Lombardi Trophy the Seahawks brought home after their 43-8 victory over the Denver Broncos on Feb. 2 – and told a story about how his fourth-grade teacher in Oliver Branch, Miss., went the extra mile to turn him into a reader.

“He talked about how he struggled with reading, and that’s my kids,” Hall said. “They all struggle with reading problems. I recorded his speech, so I’ll show it to them. Really cool. A very great story. It’s really inspirational.”

As were other moments during the Q&A session that followed Wright’s speech.

The teachers who were being honored deal with kids who have designs on becoming NFL or NBA players. But what happens when those plans don’t materialize? What advice does Wright have for them?

“Just tell them, ‘Just make sure you get your degree,’ ” Wright said. “Because, for example, my last semester of college I had the opportunity to leave so I could go train in like Florida or somewhere; or stay and train at my school and get my degree. I chose to stay. I worked out and I got my degree at the same time.

“You never know what will happen, so get your degree. If you make it to the NFL, that’s just a bonus. But the education that will last you a lifetime.”

Asked about the Lombardi Trophy, Wright offered, “This is something that’s really special to me. This is something that can’t be taken away from you. We all earned this as a team. We worked extremely hard, as you all know. And this is something that’s really big. I love this thing.”

Asked what his favorite book is now, Wright said, “Besides the playbook? My linebackers coach (Ken Norton Jr.), he has us read these books to get away from football and learn about stuff. So I read this book called, ‘Rich Dad Poor Dad.’ It’s a real good book.” 

Included among the gifts in each locker was a booklet featuring his year’s Class of Heroes, and on the cover was Megan James, a kindergarten teacher at Lake Hills Elementary School.

“I saw it and I was like, ‘Oh, that’s me on the cover of my book,’” James said. “Then I was like, ‘Wait, I’m on the front of everyone’s book. This is really exciting.’”

None of the teachers being honored got into teaching to be honored. Their rewards come from making a difference in the lives of their students. So when they are honored, it’s like James said, “This is really cool. I feel like a celebrity for a day.”

And this day belonged to these teachers who would be heroes, and Wright can relate because of that fourth-grade teacher – Mrs. Jerym.

“I didn’t like reading,” Wright said. “So she kept me after school for an hour every single day, and I had to sit down and read a book. I’m 24-years old now and I look back I’m really thankful for what she did, because she cared about my future.”

A future that has included not only going to but graduating from Mississippi State, being selected in the fourth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, working his way into the starting lineup on a defense that would rank No. 1 in the league during the 2013 season and, oh yeah, returning from Super Bowl XLVIII with the Lombardi Trophy.

“I still talk to her to this day,” said Wright, who just returned from a Super Bowl celebration in Olive Branch where he was presented with the key to the city. “And I always tell her thank you.”