Steve Largent’s legacy

Posted Dec 30, 2012

The Seahawks will present the Steve Largent Award for the 24th time at today’s game against the Rams, but the real winner remains the exemplary player that the honor is named after.

When Steve Largent was approached near the end of his 14-season career about the Seahawks naming an award after him, he wasn’t sure just what to make of it.

Honored? Of course. Humbled? Certainly. Flattered? Yes, even that.

“I was very grateful and appreciative, and humbled at the same time,” Largent, now president and CEO of CTIA-The Wireless Association, said recently from his office in Washington, D.C.

Naming an award after Largent certainly made sense, too, because he led the team in receptions for 12 consecutive seasons – the first dozen seasons in franchise history – and was the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and touchdown catches (100) when he retired after the 1989 season. He also was the first person inducted into the team’s Ring of Honor (1989), a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (1995) and, of course, the first recipient of the award that is named after him.

But Largent never did any of that for any of what followed.

“I never did the stuff that I did to get an award,” he said. “And I’m sure the same is true for everybody that’s gotten this award. They didn’t do it for the recognition, either.”

What made Largent special, and what makes the other 20 men who also have won the Largent award special, is that their selection transcends what they did on the field. As the tagline to the honor says, it is “presented to the player or coach who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.”

That, in 17 well-chosen words, is what Largent was all about. As good a player as he was, he was – and still is – a better person. And Largent derives great satisfaction from that description of what the Steve Largent Award is all about.

“I think it’s a cool thing the Seahawks do for exemplary off-field-type attitude and behavior,” he said. “And I think it’s such a good role model for young people and for the community itself.”

Largent’s continuing impact on the franchise, and players who weren’t even born when he joined the team in 1976, is apparent in the reaction to those who have won the award.

“The honor is probably the most prestigious award you can get as a Seahawk,” said former defensive end Jacob Green, the 1990 recipient who played 10 seasons with Largent. “It’s right up there with the Ring of Honor.

“Steve was undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever play here. But he also was a personal friend. So when I got that award, I couldn’t have gotten anything better. That was the peak of my career when I got the Largent Award.”

Defensive end Red Bryant was last year’s winner, and also happens to be Green’s son-in-law.

“If you’re a Seahawk, you know who Steve Largent is,” Bryant said. “So to win an award that’s named after him, I can’t put into words how honored I was to receive this award.”

Green was on the sideline when Bryant was presented with his trophy last December, and was able to supply the words that eluded Bryant.

“That award is what the Seahawks are all about,” Green said.

Largent was surprised when told of the reactions from Green and Bryant, and others who have cherished winning the award and unique trophy that goes with it.

“I didn’t know that it was a big deal to anybody,” he said. “But I think it’s pretty cool. And I just think that it’s a cool thing that the Seahawks recognize the value of the players and the franchise to the community, and they use it to do good things for people all around that area of the country.”

What’s the genesis of the Largent Award? The idea came from a man who is more closely connected to the Raiders: Tom Flores. But the fact that it was Flores, the former Raiders’ coach who later coached the Seahawks, who came up with the idea is just another indication of the level of Largent’s legacy.

Flores was the Seahawks’ president and general manager during Largent’s last season, but had coached against Largent when was walking the sideline for the Raiders from 1979-87. It was Flores who commissioned the sculptor who made the Largent Award trophy and tied presenting the first one to Largent with unveiling his name as the first one in the team’s Ring of Honor.

“Everybody was thinking, ‘This is going to be Steve’s last game. What are we going to do? How do we celebrate this great career?’ ” said Gary Wright, a longtime Seahawks executive who is now senior VP of business operations for Sounders FC.

“So Tom came with the idea of, ‘Let’s have this award.’ ”

To Flores, now the radio analyst for Raiders games, the decision to honor Largent with an award that would continue to honor others was a no-brainer – and had the support of then-owner Ken Behring and minority owner Ken Hoffman, who came up with the idea to start the Ring of Honor that season and make Largent the first inductee.

“Steve was an original Seahawk and then he maintained excellence his entire career,” Flores said. “He set all kinds of records and there wasn’t any more quality than him. Then, he made us all proud by making the Hall of Fame.”    

The Largent Award has become an honor that transcends any other personal accolade.

“The whole thing worked out perfectly, because here is a guy you want to have those kind of awards named after,” said Wright, who was Largent’s choice to introduce him at his Pro Football Hall of Fame induction ceremony. “It just worked out perfect. We were at a point and time in our history that we should have something like that.”

Named after a player like that.

“If I’m going to have my name associated with anything that is the kind of thing I want it associated with,” Largent said. “Everybody can have their name associated with most valuable player, or receiver, or whatever. But to have your name linked to what the players are doing with their lives and with their time off the field, that is really gratifying to me. But it’s also exemplary for the team and for the players.”