K.J. Wright was fresh off an impressive rookie season when he sat down to watch the 2012 NFL draft. A fourth-round pick out of Mississippi State, Wright started 12 games in 2011 and showed the versatility to play both middle and strongside linebacker. It was clear he had a bright future with Seattle's defense.
So when the Seahawks used their second pick in the 2012 draft on a linebacker out of Utah State by the name of Bobby Wagner, Wright's initial reaction wasn't the most positive.
"I can't lie, when they first drafted a linebacker, it was my first year and I was like, 'Damn, why are they drafting a linebacker, am I not doing something right?'"
That thought didn't last long, first because Wright realized he and Wagner played different positions—Wright settled in as the starting strongside linebacker by the midway point of his rookie season, and Wagner was a middle linebacker—and also because it didn't take long to realize that Wagner was a special player.
"Since Day 1, he has been fantastic," Wright said. "From Day 1, he figured it out. He watched the guys around him, learned what to take from them, what not to take from them. He's just had a fantastic career."
Over the eight seasons that have followed that 2012 draft, Wright and Wagner have become key figures in Seattle's on-field success, good friends off of it, and when the Seahawks play at Atlanta Sunday, they'll have a chance to further cement their legacies as two of the best defensive players in franchise history.
Wagner, who already holds the franchise record for tackles in a season with 160 in 2016, is sitting on 983 career tackles, meaning he needs just two tackles to pass Eugene Robinson for the most tackles in franchise history.
"I can't wait for him to get it," Wright said. "I brought it up to him last week like, 'Bruh, you're about to get there.' He acted like he didn't know what I was talking about—I know he knew. But it's phenomenal man. Bobby's obviously a Ring of Honor player, he's definitely on his way to the Hall of Fame. Just his consistency, just dominating tackles—he didn't miss but one tackle last year—it just shows the work he puts in. We train together in the offseason, and it's just his consistency and preparation, and I can't wait until he gets to 1,000."
Wright, meanwhile, has 774 tackles, meaning he would pass Joe Nash for fourth place on the all-time list with six more tackles. In other words, there's a very good chance that by Sunday afternoon, two of the top four players on Seattle's all-time tackles list will be a pair of linebackers who have played together for the past eight seasons.
"It's special, man," Wright said of the longtime success he and Wagner have had together. "When we came here, we had the same mindset as far as how good we want to be and how great we want to play. And to do it with (defensive coordinator Ken) Norton—having him leave, come back—for us to do it has been real special. The Seahawks kept us here, they know what we bring to the table, and we've just got to ride it out and finish strong."
Said Wagner, "It would be really cool if when it's all said and done it's Bobby and K.J. right next to each other."
Wagner grinned and added, "Obviously, Bobby on top though."
Yet while both players are proud of what they have done so far in their careers, and have done enough to secure their place in Seahawks history even if they were to never play another game, neither is feeling too nostalgic about career accomplishments because they still feel like they have plenty of success left in them, both individually and as a team.
"It's a testament to hard work," said Wagner. "When you first enter the league, you kind of don't know what your career is going to look like—and I still feel like I have a lot left—but to be at the top of a list like that with all the players that played here would definitely be a blessing. But I've got a lot more games to play. I can't say I'm really focused on it, I'm just trying to enjoy the game and play with passion."
Said Wright, "The career has been really mind-blowing for me. Just being here the whole time, getting to Super Bowls, Man of the Year, Pro Bowl, it's just been fantastic. The work's not done, I've got some goals I want to get, and I've just got to take it one game at a time."
The Seahawks and the Falcons will meet this Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium during week 8 of the 2019 season. Take a look back at photos from past games between the two teams.