Luke Willson was on his way to San Francisco International Airport Tuesday to fly to a workout with another NFL team when his agent called him and told him he might need to change his destination.
Later, while waiting to board his original flight, Willson’s agent called again and told him to get a plane to Seattle instead, a day later the veteran tight end was back on the practice field with the Seahawks.
“I was on my way to the airport to go workout for another team, in an Uber, and my agent called and said that this might go down,” Willson said. “So that was a quick pivot right there… He was like, ‘You still have to go the airport, we don’t really know much, I’m just giving you a heads up.’ I said, ‘Ok I’ll board the plane last then.’
“We were boarding. I got the call from my agent, so I walked over two terminals and flew to Seattle instead.”
After spending the first five years of his NFL career with the Seahawks Willson is back after one year away, a “pretty exciting” development in what has been a different start to the season than what he is used to.
“Pretty exciting, just to be in this building,” he said. “A bit surreal still, it kind of happened pretty quick. Being here, seeing everybody, a lot of new faces player-wise, seeing all of the coaches. Not just the coaches but, in the training room, equipment room, guys that I have had relationships with for a long time. It’s been a pretty special 24 hours.”
For Willson, these past few weeks have been a new experience since he was released by the Raiders during the final wave of roster cuts. Since joining the Seahawks as a fifth-round pick in 2013, Willson had never experienced being cut or being a free agent during the season prior to this year. Instead of practicing with a team at a state-of-the-art facility, he was staying in shape at the gym in his San Francisco apartment building, waiting for the opportunity that came this week.
“It was a bit challenging,” he said. “After the first two weeks, and some of the stuff that I had been told that was going to happen didn’t happen. So it was kind of one of those things where I knew it was going to be a last-minute thing. I didn’t really know what to believe. Not every team operates the same way and is looking for the same stuff. My goal was to just stay in shape, when I get the call and sign the papers, that’ll be it… I kind of hoped maybe I would be back here, but it wasn’t something like, ‘Yeah, I’ll definitely be back here.’”
And while Willson isn’t a youngster anymore, at least not by football standards, he’s confident that he still has plenty to offer the Seahawks in his second stint with the team.
“I think that I’m still moving and running pretty well, and just a couple years wiser,” he said. “I think the perception is that I’m older; I guess we’ll see. I think it all depends on, it’s a subjective league, who likes what, what kind of offense you like and don’t like. You get pigeon-holed sometimes into certain roles. I’ve got a lot to prove now, to everybody in this building, and in the league. I’ve got an opportunity, so that’s really all that I can ask for.”
Willson’s availability not only made for a fun reunion with his former team, it also gave the Seahawks the flexibility to acquire more draft capital for next year, sending Nick Vannett to the Pittsburgh Steelers for a 2020 fifth-round pick.
“How fortunate could we be to get a guy that we love and knows our program?” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Just a lifeblood, energy guy in the program as well and a really good ball player. We made a switch. We got a chance to get Luke back in it. We’re fortunate there.”
But enough about football, let’s get to the important stuff at hand with Willson’s return to Seattle. Despite objections from some teammates, including defensive captain Bobby Wagner, Willson says Techno Thursday is coming back.
“Of course man, of course,” he said. “I’m assuming. Although I gave the boombox to my brother, so I’m going to buy another boombox tonight, and we’re going to get it going.”
What Willson doesn’t need to bring back is the trend of wearing short shorts on Thursday.
“A lot of guys have kept that going, it seems like,” he said. “There were a lot of guys, I was looking today, that have supported that movement.”
And jokes aside, Willson returns to the Seahawks with a newfound appreciation for how things are done in Seattle after spending time with other teams.
“This is a very special place, not to get too emo, that’s not really my style,” he said. “From top to bottom here, just the way this entire organization is ran—including the PR guys, shout out to the PR guys—there’s just a greater sense of people caring for one another here as an off the field thing. I can kind of get into the psycho-analytical stage of how my other places have been, but it’s kind of a family here. That’s not how my experience has been everywhere else. Going in here today, and just the general energy of the team and the guys, it’s probably one of the main reasons why, when I was here—and I know they’re still doing this—we just seem to be able to win games late, because there’s just a general sense of guys caring for one another, wanting to do well for not just themselves but everybody in the building. Everybody that has a piece in this organization that helps us perform, and I don’t think that’s the same everywhere, at least in my experience.”
Take a look back at some of the best photos from Luke Willson's first five NFL seasons with the Seattle Seahawks as the tight end rejoins the club in 2019.