Marcus Trufant leaves a legacy as he leaves the Seahawks

Posted May 8, 2013

The Marcus Trufant era officially came to a close Tuesday, when the veteran cornerback signed with the Jaguars. But the legacy of professionalism he leaves behind is not lost on his former teammates and coaches.

Gone, but not forgotten.

Yes, it’s a cliché, and Marcus Trufant deserves better. This trite-but-true line also the best way to describe the reaction of players and coaches after Trufant signed Tuesday with the Jacksonville Jaguars, officially ending the 10-season run of one of the best cornerbacks to ever play for the Seahawks.

“We were just talking Marcus this morning,” All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas said in the locker room at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. “I know my rookie year he was one of the guys that stood out the most. When you look at the Seahawks’ tradition, he’s really kind of been the face here.

“When I walked into the stadium for the first time (in 2010), I saw nothing but 23 (Trufant’s uniform number). There was a huge banner of him outside the stadium. There were banners inside the stadium. He’s definitely been a crucial part in the foundation of the Seahawks for a long time.”

Offered defensive backs coach Kris Richard, “I don’t think you can say enough good things about Marcus. He is a special player and a special person.”

And Richard saw Trufant’s career from both ends.

In 2003, when the Seahawks made Trufant the 11th pick overall in the NFL Draft, Richard was in his second season with the team – also as a cornerback, one who had been drafted in the third round in 2002.

“From Day One, Marcus was quiet, he was hardworking and just humble,” Richard said. “Really, he always came off as having his priorities in order.”

That jumped out for Richard because, as he put it, “As a high draft pick, some guys don’t handle that well. When Marcus came into the room (as a rookie), there were other guys in there who were veterans. But he molded right in with the group.”

When Richard returned to the Seahawks in 2010, as an assistant on the staff of new coach Pete Carroll, he coached Trufant during the last of his five 16-start seasons and also helped Trufant through the back issues that limited him to four starts in 2011 and his move to nickel back last season after the emergence of Richard Sherman into an All-Pro corner during Trufant’s absence.

“Marcus always handled himself with class and grace,” Richard said. “That was the one thing to where you knew he was special.”

Thomas sensed it as well, even as his career with the Seahawks was taking off while Trufant’s was winding down.

“Marcus is definitely somebody I looked up to,” Thomas said. “He and I had talked about me wanting to be great and wanting to have my jersey (number) all over the stadium, just like he did.”

Now, it’s a huge poster of Thomas that hangs outside the stadium.

“Marcus was always just pure motivation for me,” Thomas said. “When you see somebody grinding like that, you want to see what kept him around this team so long. His longevity was rooted in the hard work he put in – on and off the field.

“That’s what being an impact player is, when you leave somewhere, you want everybody to remember what you did. And that’s what guys were talking about this morning – how cool Tru is, all the things he did for this team.”

Sherman also appreciates the time he had with Trufant, and the lessons he learned from Trufant. When Trufant went on injured reserve after just four games in 2011, he was replaced on the left side by Walter Thurmond. When Thurmond broke his leg two weeks later, the job fell to Sherman – a fifth-round draft choice that year who didn’t make the switch from wide receiver to cornerback until his senior season at Stanford.

“You meet a lot of different kinds of fellas in the NFL, and everybody’s got a different style,” Sherman said. “But Tru is one of those guys – on and off the field – who’s a true professional. If you’re going to pattern your game after somebody, or pattern your lifestyle after somebody, Tru is a good place to start.

“Obviously he didn’t do everything perfectly, but he was one of the best guys you could find as far as helping out anybody he could, taking care of his kids, taking care of his family, making sure everybody was happy. Financially, how he handled his business. How meticulously he prepared. He was always on the film, in the playbook.

“He’s one of those guys I was blessed to play with.” 

Before this starts to sound like a eulogy rather than an exercise in giving credit where it’s definitely due, ponder gone, but not forgotten, part deux: If things work out well for Trufant in Jacksonville, the Seahawks will see him Sept. 22 at CenturyLink when the Jaguars come to Seattle.

Trufant, who was born and raised in Tacoma and then played at Washington State, did so much for the Seahawks on that very field. But his contributions weren’t limited to tackle (638) and interception (21) totals that rank among the Top 10 in franchise history. He was named the team’s Man of the Year in 2006 and raised funds for local charities through his Trufant Family Foundation.

While he never was voted the Steve Largent Award that has been presented annually since 1989 to the person “who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks,” Trufant could have won the honor in any of his 10 seasons – and probably should have at least once.

“To me, Marcus embodies everything in what the Seahawks represent as far as professionalism, humility, sure effort and great ability – on and off the field,” Richard said. “I have the utmost respect for him, as a man first and foremost.

“He’s a better man than he is a football player, and he’s a fantastic football player.”

Now that is saying something, but not as much as Richard’s closing comment. 

“Marcus is for sure a first-ballot Ring of Honor player and person,” he said.