They came by the thousands. Not to mention the bus loads. Day after day, practice after practice, the 12th Man filled the berm adjacent to the Seahawks’ practice fields to the brim.
The birds-eye-view perch at Virginia Mason Athletic Center finally fell silent on Wednesday afternoon, following the last of the 14 practices that were open to the public at the team’s training camp. But not until the fans had cheered themselves silly during one last practice, and in turn had been cheered by the players and coaches for their over-the-top support.
“This has been a fantastic camp, it really has,” coach Pete Carroll told the media after spending time signing autographs along the fence that separates the berm from the practice fields. “We feel like we really shared it with our fans. It was great the way they turned out. Their attitude and their involvement everyday was great.”
The fans didn’t come to just watch. They bought, with the top-selling jerseys at the Sports Authority tent being those of quarterback
In fact, the fans came each day clad in their Seahawks Sunday best, turning the berm that also offers a view of Lake Washington into the football equivalent of Jersey Shores.
Wednesday, there were the obvious among the current players – All-Pro running back
But the franchise’s past also was well represented. And again, there were the obvious – Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent (No. 80), Hall of Fame defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy (No. 96), future Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones (No. 71), fullback Mack Strong (No. 38), middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu (No. 51), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (No. 8), running back Shaun Alexander (No. 37), cornerbacks Marcus Trufant (No. 23) and Shawn Springs (No. 24), strong safety Kenny Easley (No. 45) and linebacker Chad Brown (No. 94), all members of the Seahawks 35th Anniversary team; as well as quarterback Jim Zorn (No. 10), defensive end Patrick Kerney (No. 97) and wide receiver Darrell Jackson (No. 82). And again, there also were the less-than-obvious – linebacker Brian Bosworth (No. 55) and wide receivers Deion Branch (No. 83) and Mike Williams (No. 17).
The guy in the No. 79 Red Bryant jersey didn’t go unnoticed by Bryant, who just happens to be wearing the same number as his father-in-law – Ring of Honor defensive end Jacob Green, the franchise’s all-time sack leader and also a member of the 35th Anniversary team.
“It means a lot, and of course it makes me feel good,” Bryant said. “It means the fans they appreciate what it is you bring to the table. Especially being a defensive lineman, where everything we do doesn’t really show up on the stat sheet. So that makes me feel even more special to see that they value what I bring to the table.
“Like in any profession, it feels good to see that other people respect what you do.”
And the players, in turn, respect what the fans who packed the berm were able to do.
“It’s been phenomenal,” Bryant said. “They come out every day. They support us. They cheer for us. They could be a million places, but they want to be here to root us on. And that’s pretty cool.”
Cool also capsulized the fan experience. Just ask Bart Kooyman, who came from Spanaway on this day and was wearing a customized No. 75 jersey his wife, Alexis, gave him for his birthday.
“This was awesome, and I definitely look forward to coming back next year,” Kooyman said. “I think they have a team this year worthy of the Super Bowl, so it was definitely worth coming out and seeing what it’s all about.”
What training camp is really all about is preparing to meet – and perhaps even exceed – the heightened expectations for this season that are rooted in how well the Seahawks did last season, when they posted the third-best regular-season record in club history (11-5), won the franchise’s first road playoff game since 1983 and came within 32 seconds of advancing to the NFC Championship game.
“It’s amazing the support we get every day,” Sherman said. “It seems like there is a lot of excitement for the season, a lot of people are ready for it to get started. … We’re excited and they’re excited to get it going, and it makes you really excited for the season and everything we can do.”
The last word goes to Carroll: “I’m really glad that we had the chance to visit with them, and have them feel connected to us. So we like to give back as much as we can. They have made it a special camp by the way that it turned out.”