This is the Seahawks Gameday Magazine feature story for Week 16 of the 2020 season, presented by Lumen. Visit our Game Center for more information related to Week 16 vs. the Los Angeles Rams.
The Seahawks liked Bobby Wagner enough back in 2012 to make him a second-round pick even though he was considered a bit undersized for an NFL linebacker, and even though he played at Utah State, a school not exactly known as a college football powerhouse.
And a round later, the Seahawks felt strongly enough about Russell Wilson to select him with the No. 75 overall pick even though he was considered too short to play quarterback in the NFL, and even though they had spent pretty good money a month earlier on free-agent quarterback Matt Flynn.
But no matter how strong Pete Carroll and John Schneider's convictions about those two were, there's no way even the most optimistic person could have foreseen what those two picks, made less than two hours apart, could have meant for the Seahawks' future.
Those two Day 2 picks from the 2012 draft didn't just become starters as rookies, they became perennial Pro Bowlers, invaluable team leaders, and in all likelihood, future Hall of Famers, and it's hardly a coincidence that the best decade-long run in franchise history has occurred with them leading the way.
Of course, Carroll and Schneider receive, deservedly, a lot of credit for the Seahawks' success since 2010, and yes, hundreds of players have had roles, big and small, in wins and playoff berths and division titles and Super Bowl appearances over the years, but the two on-field constants as the Seahawks have posted winning seasons for nine straight seasons, along with linebacker K.J. Wright, who was drafted a year earlier, have been Wilson and Wagner.
Wagner and Wilson were both named to the NFC Pro Bowl squad this week, their seventh and eighth Pro-Bowl selections, respectively, and fittingly that honor came a day after the Seahawks clinched an eighth playoff berth in nine seasons dating back to their rookie years. Wagner and Wilson have been so consistent year after year with their play, leading to all those individual honors, and that in turn has been a big factor in the Seahawks being one of the most consistently successful teams in the NFL over the past decade.
"They've been the leaders the whole way," Carroll said. "They've been the guys who've been out in front and carry the message and make whatever I'm pitching make sense—I need a lot of help—and those guys have always been right there. They're just class, character people and it's so important to them to represent for themselves and for their club, and they're just incredible competitors. So you can't ask for more than what those guys have been. And like we've said before, they've been rewarded for it as well, and they've been recognized and seen for the great players and the contributors that they are. And they do such a respectful job in the community and everything that they do, everything they stand for. They've been perfect."
"We're Looking at a Hall-of-Fame Football Player"
Wagner was named a Pro-Bowler for the seventh straight season earlier this week, but even if there isn't much surprise in him earning that honor anymore, it's one he'll never take for granted. Ask Wagner about any accomplishment, from those Pro Bowls to his five first-team All-Pro selections to the franchise record for tackles to recording 100 tackles in nine consecutive seasons, and he'll mention the word consistency. Wagner has been around long enough to see a lot of players rise to star status, only to vanish just as quickly, and his goal has always been to not just become great, but to sustain it.
"He only gets better," defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "Some people become the best, and that's their goal; he wants to become the best of the best. It's really exciting to see him continue to improve even after seven Pro Bowls. It's really exciting to see."
Said Wagner, "It's the time you put in in the offseason, all the studying, all the hours that you put in to try to be a great player. To have something like that and have it happen over consecutive years, it just shows the consistency. I always try to be a consistent player, and being able to do that just kind of shows how consistent someone can be."
That consistency has put Wagner in very rare company—in addition to recording more than 100 tackles every season, he's one of 11 linebackers since the 1970 merger to earn first-team All-Pro honors five times, seven of whom are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame—and will in all likelihood result in a bust in Canton someday.
"We're looking at a Hall-of-Fame football player," Carroll said after Wagner eclipsed 100 tackles last month. "We maybe don't realize how great a player he is and how hard it is to do what he's doing. He's an all-timer."
Said Wilson, "He's a Hall-of-Fame football player. He's a Hall-of-Fame friend."