Early in Kam Chancellor's career, it was his reluctance to be a leader that helped confirm to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll that Chancellor was in fact ready to lead.
In 2010, Chancellor was a rookie who primarily played only on special teams, but Carroll saw in the fifth-round pick from Virginia Tech a young man who had more to offer. Chancellor, however, wasn't ready, telling Carroll, "Coach, I haven't even done anything yet."
For Carroll, that was a "perfectly admirable" response. And by 2011, Chancellor was a starter and on his way to becoming one of the Seahawks' best defensive players as well as an emerging young leader for a young team in transition.
"When he came back his second year, it started to happen," Carroll said. "He's such a natural leader that he took over. But I thought that was a real good statement that he wanted to be worthy when he took to it. But you could see it early, he has all the right stuff."
That leadership is just part of the reason why the Seahawks signed Chancellor to a multi-year contract extension Tuesday, a move both parties hope will allow the Pro Bowl safety to finish his career where it began.
"All my life, I felt like coaches always saw something in me that I didn't see in myself, and Pete saw something in me that I didn't see in myself," Chancellor said of that 2010 exchange with Carroll. "… I felt like I still had to prove myself to the guys, because those are the guys I'm playing with on the field and the guys I've got to see every day in the locker room."
Seven years later, Chancellor has established himself as a leader and a key piece of one of the NFL's best defenses, so while working out the financial details is always tricky, there was no doubt in the minds of Seahawks leadership that keeping Chancellor around long-term was the right move.
"We know who he is and the stature he holds in this program," Carroll said. "Everybody agrees, there's an absolute consensus on this guy, so it was the right thing to do, it was a good thing to do. It was a hard thing to do at this time with these negotiations and such, but it's the right thing, so we had to work our way through it and we did. I'm really pleased it worked out. It was a great job by (general manager) John (Schneider) and (vice president of football administration) Matt Thomas to get that done.
"I'm so proud for us to be able to do this today… I admire the heck out of this guy. This is a great kid, he's a great leader, he's a tough guy, he's a heart-and-soul guy. He's a fifth-round draft pick who broke all the way through from that to become a great football player and leader in our program, and for us to have the chance to come together at this time right in the middle and the heart of his career to be able to reward him like this is really something special. I couldn't be more pleased about it, and I know he's fired up about it too. It's for all the right stuff, because he's such a great person and a great player and all of that. It's a marvelous day for the whole organization, for everybody. We'll get him for the rest of his career."
For Chancellor, who was heading into the final year of the contract extension he signed in 2013, getting a deal done now means his energy can be focused solely on football and not on contract negotiations.
"I can just focus on ball and capturing that Super Bowl ring again," Chancellor said. "That's what we're striving for, being a great team over and over again consecutively. It feels great to get that off my shoulders and get back to ball."
As happy as Chancellor and the Seahawks were Tuesday, it was only two years ago that camp opened with Chancellor absent, a holdout that extended into the regular season. Chancellor and his teammates have said that holdout is in the past—"bygones be bygones," Chancellor said of that topic—but in retrospect, Carroll actually sees some positives in those hard times.
"I'm glad you brought that up," Carroll said. "This is another illustration of how, when you have deep relationships, sometimes you don't see things eye-to-eye. Sometimes you get going in a different direction and stuff doesn't quite make sense, and we got there. But because of the depth of the relationship, because of the commitment to one another, we worked our way through it and made sense of it, and he has been better for it and we've been better for it, even though it was a really hard thing. I'm really pleased to be able to tell you that's how it works, it is that way sometimes, and when you really care about people and they mean a lot to you, you're able to work through anything, and we did."
Chancellor's extension means most of Seattle's defensive nucleus is under contract through at least the 2018 season. That includes three All-Pros in the secondary, Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, who have played together since Sherman joined the team as a rookie in 2011.
"It's all about chemistry, and I think that chemistry is contagious to everybody else," Thomas said. "I think we each affect everybody on this team in a great, positive way. That's what we bring to the table."
That chemistry shows up most when it comes to on-field communication.
"The number one thing is communication," Carroll said. "These guys have been through so much, their ability to see things eye to eye and assess thing and make decisions and make adjustments and changes and know what's going on, and a lot of times they don't even have to talk—they look, they know, they can tell, and they've been there so much. It's a great asset for us."
And the longer they play together, Chancellor and Thomas, who were part of the same 2010 draft class, have an increasingly good chance at going down as one of the all-time great safety tandems. Already between them Thomas and Chancellor have earned Pro-Bowl honors nine times and first or second-team All-Pro honors six times. And more significantly, they have been key parts of the most successful era in franchise history, helping the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl title and back-to-back NFC championship while making the postseason six times in their first seven seasons. The Seahawks also led the NFL in points allowed for four straight years from 2012 to 2015, an NFL first in the Super Bowl era.
"We don't talk about that," Thomas said of his and Chancellor's place in NFL history. "If it happens, it happens. We've just got to keep growing together. We're both very stubborn at times. We've been knowing each other for a long time, but we still have to work out these kinks so we can be complete together. When we reach that level, that's when we're unstoppable."
Take a look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor.