Heath Farwell hasn’t just found his niche; he’s making a career out it

Posted Sep 27, 2013

Heath Farwell transcends even his role as captain of the Seahawks’ special teams. As former special teams standout Marquand Manuel puts it, “When you go to battle, you want to take a guy like Heath with you.”

You have to like Heath Farwell.

He might not be a starter for the Seahawks, but the special teams captain and backup linebacker starts most of the good things those second-ranked special teams units do.

Farwell was signed during the Seahawks’ bye week in 2011 and proceeded to lead not only the team but the league with 21 coverage tackles, despite playing in only 11 games. Last season, when he was voted a special teams co-captain, Farwell again had a team-high 15 coverage tackles. Three games into this season, as the Seahawks prepare for Sunday’s game against the Texans in Houston, Farwell has two coverage tackles – one behind cornerback Jeremy Lane.

Farwell went to the Pro Bowl for his special teams play in 2009, while with the Minnesota Vikings, and he was an alternate last season.

But Farwell’s contributions can’t be measured in stats and honors alone, because his presence forces opponents to account for him and that creates opportunities for others. And his mental approach to such a physical part of the game also pays benefits for everyone on the special teams units that are coordinated by Brian Schneider.

“Heath is just such a great leader,” offered backup safety and core special teams player Chris Maragos. “He’s a pro’s pro. He embodies everything that you want – he works hard, he leads by example, he’s a vocal leader and he does a really good job for us.”

But there is even more to Farwell than his glue-like qualities that bond these units that feature so many other players from every unit on the team – from All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas to rookie free agent linebacker John Lotulelei; from rock-solid kicker Steven Hauschka to steady-as-he snaps center Clint Gresham; and from leading receiver and punt returner Golden Tate to Maragos, who has been among the leading special teams tacklers in each of his three seasons with the Seahawks.

Farwell also has the ability to transcend units and personalities in the locker room as well as on the field, probably because so many of the players on the 53-man roster are part of the special teams units he captains.

In fact, Farwell might be the closest thing to an ambassador of team unity that the Seahawks have had since quarterback Matt Hasselbeck left after the 2010 season. With Hasselbeck, you could ask about any player on the team – star running back to third-team safety – and he would almost always have a story to tell about that player that was always humorous.

Speaking of humorous, Marquand Manuel says they call Farwell “Bubby Lee Jr.” after the advertising mascot for Lee Jeans.

“He’s the funny little guy who fits in everywhere and understands everybody,” said Manuel, a core special teams player during his eight-season NFL career who assisted with the Seahawks special teams last season and this year is a defensive assistant.

“When you go to battle, you want to take a guy like Heath with you.”

Farwell’s seemingly encyclopedic knowledge of his teammates is focused more on football than Hasselbeck’s was, but just as impressive.

While discussing special teams play in general one day last week, Farwell used the opportunity to shove some love Derrick Coleman’s way. Coleman, a tailback at UCLA, is making the transition to fullback in the NFL, but also doing his thing on special teams.

“Derrick has done an unbelievable job. He’s our most improved player from last year to this year,” Farwell said. “I guess the biggest thing with him is, from the start of training camp in scout team special teams drills, he just started showing up and proving that he’s learned and he cares and wants to be out there.

“The way he plays in the game is how he practices every day. So it’s not a shocker to us that he goes out and performs in games. Coach Schneider has talked about that. He’s like, ‘This guy does this every day. It’s not a surprise when he just locks his guy up on a punt return. Or he’s running the field and bulls his guy into the returner.’ It’s not a surprise, because he did it in training camp, he does it every day in practice and does it now in the games.

“He’s done a really good job of doing whatever they ask. And he’s playing as well as anybody on special teams.”

Just like Farwell.

“You have to appreciate everything Heath does day-in, day-out, game-in, game-out,” Manuel said. “Just from my time working with him, he is a true professional. You talk about not just coming in and doing your job, but excelling at your job, he does a great job of that.

“We always had the conversation last year about the great special teams players – the Steve Taskers of the world. And Heath is right up there with them. And I don’t say that lightly, because this guy actually goes out and even though he’s not a starter on defense he’s a starter on special teams. And around here, that means something. So he’s a key guy to have.”

Like Heath Farwell? Forget that, you have to love Heath Farwell.