A history teacher, a self-proclaimed "punk from Boston" and a man whose name is synonymous with Seattle fashion all gathered at CenturyLink Field Thursday where they were inducted into the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame.
Those three were all honored because of the significant places they hold in Seahawks history. The teacher, Mike Holmgren, eventually left the high school coaching and teaching ranks to become an NFL head coach, the first to lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl. Matt Hasselbeck, that "punk from Boston," eventually followed Holmgren from Green Bay to Seattle where he became one of the best quarterbacks in franchise history. And John Nordstrom, part of the third generation of a family that turned a Seattle shoe store into a global clothing icon, was one of the original owners of the Seahawks, playing a big role in the city landing an expansion team.
Also going into the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame Thursday were former University of Washington running back Napoleon Kaufman, former Snohomish High School football coach Dick Armstrong, and Jerry Brisset, who was the semi pro inductee for his 13-year career in the Pacific Northwest Football League.
"I look at the names I'm going in with, and it makes it even more special," Holmgren said.
Speaking last and having heard previous inductees heap praise on one another, as well as Steve Raible, who was emceeing the event, Holmgren also brought big laughs with a moment of feigned arrogance.
"Listen, everyone's come up here and said such beautiful things about everybody," Holmgren said. "I'll tell you right now, I had Joe Montana, Steve Young, Brett Favre and Matt Hasselbeck; none of them were any good until they got with me."
Holmgren, who led the Seahawks to five straight playoff appearances and four division titles from 2003-2007, took a more serious tone when talking about how much Kathy, his wife of almost 47 years, means to him; or when he discussed how they found a permanent home in the Pacific Northwest.
"This is home, so to go into this hall of fame means a lot to me," he said.
Holmgren added that his impressive coaching career, which included a Super Bowl title in Green Bay, "wasn't work for me. We worked hard, but I enjoyed every minute of it."
Holmgren going into the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame with Hasselbeck was fitting, as the two spent so much time together and meant so much to each other's success. Hasselbeck talked about how much Holmgren pushed him and brought the best out of a young quarterback, while Holmgren acknowledged that Hasselbeck becoming Seattle's quarterback might have helped save his job early in his Seahawks career. And of course Hasselbeck's speech included plenty of humor and sarcasm, much of it at Holmgren's expense.
"On a daily basis, I use the thing that I learned from you," Hasselbeck said, looking at Holmgren. "Whether it's east right F short; three jet eagle arrow, east slice. Could be red left swap tight close, Z right; sprint right G U corner halfback flat. Could be Y motion to blue right tight close; F 64 U corner fullback flat. There's not a day that goes by that I don't use those plays. It's just so practical.
"I joke, that's what I do because I'm a punk from Boston, as you guys know. But what is true is that the lessons learned in mastering those types of plays… And it's men and coaches and teachers like Coach Holmgren, like Coach Armstrong who push these athletes, these kids, these people who end up becoming husbands and fathers, and I'm so appreciative of that."
Nordstrom, whose family owned the team until 1988, spoke fondly of the team's first draft in 1976, a draft that included Raible, who after a six-year playing career as a receiver with the Seahawks became the team's color analyst alongside play-by-play man Pete Gross, then became the team's play-by-play announcer in 2004.
"There was a tight end from Georgia Tech, and it was one of the fastest 40 times I'd seen anywhere on the board—4.35," Nordstrom said. "We were ragtag rookie owners, we didn't know much about football at all, but we knew that 4.35 was pretty fast, so we took that guy."
Nordstrom recalled those early years, saying the team had "a wonderful young bunch of guys on our offense and defense, we were exciting. We had Jim Zorn, Steve Largent, Sam McCullum, Dave Brown. We had a good young team."
And then to the surprise of no one in attendance at the luncheon, the always-gracious Nordstrom turned his moment into a chance to heap praise on other people, ranging from his "wonderful wife, Sally," to his children and grandchildren, to that speedy tight end out of Georgia Tech.
"Looking back on that draft after all those years, I really think the very best draft pick we made in our era was a guy named Steve Raible," Nordstrom said. "The reason I say that is, how many guys could excel in playing, then excel in being a partner of Pete Gross in the booth, then becoming the voice of the Seahawks? You talk about the voices of the sports teams in the Seattle area, he's right at the top as far as I'm concerned. So the best pick we ever made, Steve Raible, it was you."
One of the common themes through all the speeches was a deep appreciation for the wives who helped these football lifers reach such heights. Hasselbeck illustrated that with a story about how, early in time with the Seahawks, he and Trent Dilfer didn't get along very well as they competed for the starting job. The two are very close friends now, and that friendship developed in no small part because of their wives.
"Let's be honest, we all liked Brock (Huard), but I didn't like Trent, Trent didn't like me," Hasselbeck said. "We're very good friends now, but at the time it was tough, and it was the wives on that team in 2001, Sarah Hasselbeck, Molly Huard, Cass Dilfer, Joy Zorn, Kathy Holmgren, that stepped up and said, 'You know what, we're going to be friends. We're going to be cordial and unselfish,' and it really set the tone in that quarterback room, which I believe helped lay the foundation for an unselfish team that we had, which helped with success down the line."
Mike Holmgren, Matt Hasselbeck and John Nordstrom were inducted into the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame Thursday.