If ever there was a poster boy for the adage that your age is just a number, it’s Pete Carroll.
The energetic, enthusiastic and ever-optimistic coach of the Seahawks turns 62 on Sunday, and you’re invited to his “birthday bash” that evening when his team hosts the NFC West rival San Francisco 49ers in its nationally televised home opener at CenturyLink Field.
In just his fourth season with the Seahawks, Carroll’s words to play by – and live by – are the indelible brand he has put on every possible aspect of the talented collection of players he and general manager John Schneider have compiled. From the “I’m In” signs hanging above the doorways that lead to the practice fields at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, to the guests he brings in to speak to his players, to the infectiousness that is Pete just being Pete.
How to describe the way he whirls around the practice field? Or the joy he gets from joking with reporters during news conferences? Or the way his beyond-upbeat personality impacts players who are young enough to be his children – no, younger than his own children?
“Glena has always said it’s zeal,” Carroll said with a smile, referring to the way his wife describes whatever it is that effervesces from within.
Zeal: “Eager interest and enthusiasm; ardent endeavor or devotion; ardor; fervor.”
And it’s his zeal that is the seal this team is stamped with. It’s difficult to talk with one of the players for more than a few minutes before the first “As coach always says …” is inserted into the conversation.
Call it the zeal of approval.
“If you look around this locker room, we’re a reflection of the head coach,” wide receiver
“And I think that speaks for the entire coaching staff, and really the whole organization. And Pete has a huge impact on how everyone around this organization carries themselves.”
So it’s the old chicken-or-the-egg thing. Which came first? Carroll’s positive influence? Or players who feed off that, and buy into it?
“I’d say it’s more just a match with the type of players we’ve got,” said Okung, who won’t be 26 until next month. He paused before adding, “But those are the type of guys they’re looking for – guys who are really enthusiastic and with the same outlook; everybody hungry for the opportunity and the second chance.”
“Pete is awesome,” said McKayla Hall, one of the 37,175 fans who attended training camp practices this summer. “I like watching him on the sideline. He’s more interesting than the game.”
Nate Carroll, the youngest of Pete and Glena’s three children and an offensive assistant on his dad’s staff, tells a story of the day he realized what life as a Carroll kid was going to be all about.
“I remember we went to see my brother (Brennan) play at (the University of) Pittsburgh one time,” Nate said. “We flew in, went to the game, hung out with my brother and then caught a flight home. I was exhausted.
“My mom and dad said, ‘Nate, this is just who we are. We do everything we can in one day. Just get used to it.’ I was like 12 then, and I was just learning the lesson – that’s just how my parents are.”
Told of Nate’s recollection, his father laughed and offered, “That’s pretty much it.”
Carroll then added, “We’re always looking for how to make a day fun and find something else to do to make it a special day. And don’t settle for days that aren’t fully engaging.”
That’s not just how Pete and Glena live their life, that’s how Pete coaches his team. And it’s infectious.
“We definitely feed off the energy coach brings,” said Tate, who is 25. “Everyone has those days where you just don’t have it that day. But when coach comes into a meeting he starts it off with highlights from the previous day and the emotion he has and the passion he has for the game, you can’t help but lift yourself up.
“I’m constantly amazed by how much energy he has, and I hope I can have half as much energy. But he has a very, very strong passion for this game. He’s got so much energy, and it’s positive energy.”
Offered Okung, “I’m shocked every day at just how he lives life. He’s like a little kid out there. But at the end of the day, he’s coach.”
Carroll confides that the players – the much-younger players, the younger-than-his-own-kids players – help stoke his zeal.
“I think so,” he said. “I do everything I can to outlast them in terms of energy and enthusiasm.”