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It all started with Manu Tuiasosopo

Posted Mar 24, 2014

Monday metatarsal musings: The first Seahawks event I ever covered was the announcement that Manu Tuiasosopo had signed his rookie contract in 1979. Saturday, that past collided with the present during the Regional Combine at VMAC.


FREE AGENCY ROUNDUP

A look at the players the Seahawks have signed and lost in the first 14 days of the NFL’s free-agency period, as well as their remaining free agents (the Seahawks do not announce transactions until they are finalized):

Re-signed
DL Michael Bennett
K Steve Hauschka
QB Tarvaris Jackson
C Lemuel Jeanpierre (restricted)
SS Jeron Johnson (restricted)
TE Anthony McCoy

Reportedly re-signed
DT Tony McDonald

Tendered
WR Doug Baldwin (restricted)

Free agents signed
WR Taylor Price (Jaguars)
OL Stephen Schilling (Chargers)

Released
DE Red Bryant, signed with Jaguars
DE Chris Clemons, signed with Jaguars
WR Sidney Rice

Agreed to terms or signed with other teams
CB Brandon Browner, Patriots
OT Breno Giacomini, Jets
DT Clinton McDonald, Buccaneers
OL Paul McQuistan, Browns
FS Chris Maragos, Eagles
WR Golden Tate, Lions
CB Walter Thurmond, Giants

Remaining unrestricted free agents
TE Kellen Davis
DE/LB O’Brien Schofield, agreed with Giants but failed physical
FB Michael Robinson

As Saturday afternoon was pushing into Saturday evening, my past collided with my present.

That’s because I bumped into Manu Tuiasosopo during the Regional Combine that was being conducted in the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Tuiasosopo, the Seahawks’ first-round draft choice in 1979, was working the event for the league – as were Norm Johnson, Charle Young and Ben Obomanu, also former Seahawks who also live in the area.

But the hey-how’s-it-going encounter with Tuiasosopo stopped me in my tracks. I just completed my 35th season covering the Seahawks, and fifth for Seahawks.com. But the first Seahawks event I ever covered was the announcement that Tuiasosopo had signed his rookie contract, after the team had made the defensive tackle from UCLA the 18th player selected in the first round of the NFL Draft on May 3.

It was a moment that unleashed a flood of memories from the past 35 years. So much has changed. So many players and coaches have come and gone. So many games have been played. So many years have passed. The players have gone from being not that much younger than me; to being born the year I graduated from high school; to the age of my kids; to being much younger than my kids; to being old enough – or young enough – to be my grandkids.

That afternoon at the Washington Athletic Club in 1979 stands out, because who knew where that first Seahawks assignment would lead – and who knew the lasting legacy Tuiasosopo would have. He played only five seasons with the Seahawks, before spending three more with the San Francisco 49ers (1984-86) and winning a Super Bowl ring.

But Manu and his wife, Tina, returned to the Seattle area and have raised five children – Leslie, who won a national championship as a volleyball player at the University of Washington and now is the associate head coach for the Huskies; Marques, a quarterback for the Huskies, then with the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets and now associate head coach at USC; Zach, who was a fullback for the Huskies, also played in the NFL and now works for Caterpillar and coaches high school football; Matt, who plays baseball, currently for the Toronto Blue Jays; and Ashley, a former UW softball player who used to work training camps for the Seahawks.

Talk about your First Families of Washington State Sports, the Manu and Tina quintet has four of those sports covered. Oh, and there are nine grandchildren ready to write the next chapters in this all-Tuiasosopo, all-the-time sporting life saga.

And that, of course, only makes me feel even older. I not only covered Manu’s career with the Seahawks, I’m still covering the Seahawks after his sons have moved on from their NFL careers.

But it’s the people I’ve met along the way – like Manu, Tina and their kids – that have made it so memorable. Even when those memories can make you feel old.

With that said, here are a few leftover items from the two-day combine at VMAC:

In the story on former Seahawks Pro Bowl special teams player and wide receiver Alex Bannister looking to make a comeback at 34, we mentioned the best marks in the 40-yard dash and vertical leap from Saturday’s sessions with the defensive (morning) and offensive (afternoon) players.

But who had the biggest hands? Williwu Siefa, a defensive end from Northwest University, topped the list at 11½ inches. Northwest University? Yes, the site of the Seahawks’ previous headquarters in Kirkland before they moved into VMAC in 2008.

Siefa, who is from Liberia, played basketball and ran track for the Eagles.

How about the longest arms? That would be Matthew Lagrone, a defensive end from Oregon State, who has 35-inch arms. Checking in at 34½ were Kavario Middleton, a tight end from Montana; and Cosmo VanBuskirk, a defensive end from Eastern Washington University.

What about an early favorite to be invited to the Super Regional in Detroit next month? Let’s start with Alex Means, an almost 6-foot-5, 239-pounder who is not only from the Air Force Academy but still in the Air Force.

Means put together an impressive package of measureables: 4.75 and 4.76 seconds in the 40-yard dash; a 32½-inch vertical leap; and a 10-foot, 1-inch board jump. But he was even better in the position drills, so much so that his efforts impressed those running the event for the league.

One glitch: His military commitment runs through the spring of 2015.

“This is good,” Means said when asked about the concept of the regional combines. “I think it’s a good way for smaller school guys or guys that have been out of the game for a little while to come back and get an opportunity at these regionals and hopefully jump on to the Super Regional.”

Means was out of the game as a player last season, but the first lieutenant stayed in it as a graduate assistant coach for the Falcons.

“The coaching staff at Air Force was very good about letting me get my workouts in, but also cutting down the film, breaking down opponents,” he said.

Just because Means is in the Air Force doesn’t make him a pilot.

“I had the opportunity to go up in an F-15E Strike Eagle when I was a junior, and it terrified the crap out of me,” Means, who is a logistics officer, said with a laugh.

Means didn’t know his “numbers” from the combine, but he felt good enough about the sum of his efforts.

“I jumped well. I did everything I did at Pro Day, if not better,” he said. “So hopefully it transpires into chasing the dream. I didn’t go to college expecting to go to the NFL. I just went to play at Air Force. It was a great school. I wanted to get a great education and serve my country, and the opportunity presented itself.”

Just like Means presented himself very well during his opportunity at the Regional Combine.