Kam Chancellor: ‘He is the enforcer’

Posted Jan 23, 2014

Kam Chancellor’s performance in the NFC Championship provided the football nation with a look at all the good things the Seahawks’ extra-strong strong safety has been doing for the past three seasons.

When Kam Chancellor walked into the defensive backs meeting room for the first time as a rookie in 2010, it prompted veteran safety Jordan Babineaux to offer more than a double-take.

Babineaux was about to explain that the linebackers meeting room was down the hall at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. But then he realized who the 6-foot-3, 232-pound Chancellor was.

“When Kam walked in I was like, ‘Wow,’ ” the since-retired Babineaux said at the time. “He’s the physical specimen that you dream of.”

Unless you’re a receiver on an opposing team, that is. Then the dream is more like a nightmarish matchup.

Just ask Vernon Davis. The also physically gifted tight end of the San Francisco 49ers was on the receiving end of one of those Chancellor tattoo-hits that have become his calling card the past 3½ season since the Seahawks selected him in the fifth round of the 2010 NFL Draft – and he became a situational player midway through his rookie season before stepping in as the starter in 2011.


This feature on All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor completes our series of articles examining the starters in the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom secondary that leads the NFL’s No. 1-ranked defense:

FS Earl Thomas – Voted All-Pro for the second consecutive season and to the Pro Bowl for the third time in his four-season career. Finished second on the team in tackles (100) and interceptions (five). Read more.

CB Richard Sherman – Voted All-Pro for the second consecutive season and also to the first Pro Bowl in his three-season career. Led the NFL in interceptions (eight) and has more interceptions (20) and passes defensed (60) than any player in the league since 2011. Read more.

CB Byron Maxwell – Stepped in as the starter on the right side in Week 13, as the third option because Brandon Browner was injured and Walter Thurmond was serving a four-game suspension. In his five regular season starts, Maxwell intercepted four passes. Read more.

The third-quarter pass from Colin Kaepernick and the pigskin-seeking missile that Chancellor transforms into when he’s in a helmet and full pads arrived at Davis in the same half-blink during Sunday’s NFC Championship game. Chancellor hit Davis. The ball hit the turf at CenturyLink Field. And someone should have hit the play button on the Ike and Tina Turner version “I Want to Take You Higher,” because the impact of that one play was greater than just that one play and looked like something out of “Remember the Titans.”

Boom shaka-laka-laka. Boom shaka-laka-laka.

In a Seahawks secondary that goes by the Legion of Boom, Chancellor is The Enforcer.

As the Seahawks’ defense was taking over in the second half of Sunday’s NFC Championship game, Chancellor also was the hyperactive metronome that set the beat in motion. In addition to that welcome-to-my-world collision with Davis, Chancellor intercepted a Kaepernick pass that was intended for wide receiver Anquan Boldin in the fourth quarter and also caused Michael Crabtree to short-arm a pass with two minutes to play because he could sense Chancellor’s imposing presence. Oh, and he also finished with 11 tackles.

“I just show my passion for the game,” Chancellor said Thursday. “Because when I go out there, all these hard hits and laying dudes out, that’s just my passion for the game. That just shows how much I love this game and I’m just continuing to show how you should play this game.” 

The NFC title game was a big day – and obviously a very passionate day – on the biggest stage yet for Chancellor, who this week is busy preparing for the Seahawks’ matchup against the Denver Broncos’ high-powered offense in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2.

But it was far from an atypical performance for Chancellor. In the past three seasons, he has made 94, 91 and 93 tackles – as well as seven interceptions. In two postseason games this season, he leads the team in tackles (25) and passes defensed (four).

Chancellor doesn’t generate the media attention that seems to find All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman even when he’s not looking for it; or the honors that have come the way of All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas. But the other players, the coaches and even the Seahawks’ front office know just how valuable he is to all the good things the team has accomplished.

When it was time to unveil the Seahawks’ new uniforms in the spring of 2012, Chancellor was the choice to model it at the Nike-sponsored event in New York City. And for the obvious reason. Even in a room filled players from the other 31 NFL teams, no one struck a more-imposing figure than Chancellor.

Last spring, Chancellor became the first member of the Legion of Boom to get a contract extension. And in an offseason that included the trade to acquire Percy Harvin and the free-agent signings of defensive linemen Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Tony McDonald, general manager John Schneider offered, “Anything that happened, other than being able to sign Kam, was going to be a bonus for us. Signing Kam was our absolute No. 1 priority.”

His teammates and coaches quickly became Kam fans, as well, because of what he brings, but also because of who he is.

Quarterback Russell Wilson, who like Chancellor is from Virginia: “The first time I ever met Kam Chancellor was when I played him at Virginia Tech (and Wilson was at North Carolina State). He’s a great football player. Tons of respect in, obviously, the state of Virginia. But in terms of Kam Chancellor once I got here (in 2012), he’s everything that he’s showed. He’s very physical. He loves the game of football. He’s very intelligent. He’s one of our leaders on our football team for sure. He plays with so much passion, and just loves the game of football. So you really respect that about Kam, and he does his things the right way.”

Thomas, who provides the dash to Chancellor’s bash: “I think we’re the best tandem in the league right now, just because of the chemistry and connection that we have. And I think it started when I put my pride aside and said, ‘This guy is just as good as me, you know, so why not open up to him and tell him all of me.’ Tell him like, ‘Man, if you see me doing this, please let me know, because on game day I definitely don’t want to be in that position to hurt the team.’ So when you just really be humble about the situation and really let guys into your world, good stuff like that happens. It’s a respect factor.”  

Defensive backs coach Kris Richard: “What really stands out about Kam is his character. He’s an awesome, genuine human being. He’s the big brother of the secondary, and he’s kind of the enforcer, obviously. There’s just a tremendous impact he has with his level of humility, in regards to his style of play. He’s an awesome combination of an awesome young man, an intelligent football player and a fierce hitter out there.”

Sherman: “You want to see Kam Chancellor be labeled as one of the best safeties out there, because he plays like one of the best safeties out there.” When asked if he’s ever had a teammate as “dialed in” as Thomas, Sherman said, “Russell Wilson. Those two, but I have never seen anybody else like that. Kam Chancellor also is in the sphere, but you don’t meet people like that every day.”

With Chancellor, defensive assistant Marquand Manuel, the free safety on the Seahawks’ 2005 Super Bowl team, had to dig into his past to find a comparison.   

“When I first took the job, I hadn’t seen anybody that big, that fast, that athletic since Sean Taylor,” Manuel said.

The would be the late Sean Taylor, a 6-2, 212-pound safety for the Washington Redskins from 2004-07 who died Nov. 27, 2007, after being shot by someone who broke into his home.

“But Kam is more cerebral,” Manuel said. “And you know what the awesome part is? I just named all athletic abilities, but he’s also one of the best guys you would ever want to be coaching or be a teammate of. I sincerely mean that.

“And fortunately, he’s the meanest guy on the team, too. He is the enforcer. But he’s the best teammate you could ever have. They hit the jackpot. They’d lucked out big time when they got this guy in the fifth round. He is a perfect complement to Earl Thomas.”

Then Manuel offered the real secret to why Chancellor is among those “unique skills” players that coach Pete Carroll and Schneider have stocked the roster with.

“How do you get to be good?” Manuel asked. “By doing the ordinary great.”