Three owners. Three practice facilities. Three home fields. Eight head coaches. Roughly 775 players. Seven division titles. One conference championship. Nineteen playoff games. One trip to the Super Bowl.
Connect the dots between these numbers and it creates a picture of the Seahawks’ first 36 seasons, and Thom Fermstad has seen it all – through the lens of his cameras. But his career will fade to black after next week’s season finale against the Cardinals in Arizona because Fermstad, one of the original members of the Seahawks family, is retiring as the team’s director of video. Today marks his final home game as the Seahawks host the San Francisco 49ers.
“It’s been great,” he said. “It absolutely has. I’m sure I’ll miss it.”
In addition to seeing all things Seahawks, Fermstad also has witnessed the technological advancements that have revolutionized what he does on a daily basis – along with assistants Brad Campbell, John Mallory, Jon Suyat and James Churchill.
That he now shares the duties with four others says as much about Fermstad’s tenure with the team as anything else. Because when he arrived in 1976, as film director, Fermstad was a one-man band.
And he never planned any of this.
Fermstad met writer-director Gary Lindberg while in the Army. Discharged at roughly the same time, Fermstad went to work for the industrial filmmaker because, “He needed a grip, and I needed a job,” he said. “We did a couple of films and he taught me filming and editing.”
That led to Fermstad working for a film lab in Minneapolis where he processed the Vikings’ film, which led to him working part time for the team for three seasons (1973-75).
“Two Super Bowls. Bud Grant. All that stuff,” he said with a smile. “Which is kind of cool.”
Fermstad came to Seattle in 1976 when Jack Patera, the Vikings’ defensive line coach, was named coach for the expansion Seahawks.
“So I owe it, really, all to him,” Fermstad said. “I mean, he was taking a chance.”
Patera left during the strike-shortened 1982 season, but Fermstad filmed on. And on. And on. On film until 1986, when everything switched to video. Now, it’s digital. What used to take five hours after games now can be done on the flight back from road games.
“The digital world has been good for us,” Fermstad said. “And it’s also helped the coaches, and allowed them to do more with what we do.”
But his position never changed. He’s been on a tower at midfield for practices at two locations in Kirkland, training camp practices at Eastern Washington University and now inside and outside at Virginia Mason Athletic Center. On game days, he’s been at the 50-yard line – at the Kingdome, Husky Stadium and Seahawks Stadium/Qwest Field/CenturyLink Field for home games; and every stadium in the league, past and present, for road games.
On Draft Day, the camera has been turned on Fermstad for the past 13 years because he’s been the team representative in New York City who turns in the cards containing the Seahawks’ draft choices.
What will he miss most? “The people,” Fermstad said. “I’ve been really fortunate. Because sometimes you hear horror stories about coaches or whatever. But I can’t think of one guy that I didn’t really like.”
He paused before adding, “And I hate to break that streak of going to games.”
Fermstad then smiled before offering, “That almost makes me want to stay. But not really.”
Not only has Fermstad never missed a game, until this season he had missed only one of the team’s countless practices – in 1989, when his son, Jordan, was born. This year, the death of his brother forced him to miss almost two weeks.
His fondest memory? Easy. Those few magical weeks after the 2005 season when the Seahawks won the NFC Championship and then played in the Super Bowl.
“That was a great time,” he said.
What’s ahead for the 62-years-young Fermstad? He plans to travel with his wife, Connie; deal with his brother’s estate; and continue his involvement with, and charity work through, VFW.
“Any spouse of anybody who works in football, you put in some long hours,” he said. “So I owe my wife some time. We’re really looking forward to traveling.”
Fermstad then laughed as he added, “My wife will get real tired of me, I’m sure.”