As Matt Hasselbeck walked through a tunnel at CenturyLink Field, he came to the same realization he has had in stadiums around the country on Monday afternoons this season.
He has to keep his suit on for the rest of the night.
Throughout his 18 year NFL career, including 10 seasons with the Seahawks, Hasselbeck would arrive at stadiums hours before kickoff, just like he did ahead of Monday's game between the Seahawks and Bills, then change from a suit into pads and a football uniform. Now an analyst for ESPN's Monday Night Countdown, there's no need for a wardrobe change prior to kickoff.
That has been just one of many adjustments to life after football for Hasselbeck, who is back at CenturyLink Field Monday for the first time since he played in a preseason game in 2012 as a member of the Tennessee Titans.
"This place was always special to me here," Hasselbeck said. "It's just very nostalgic. The thing that feels the weirdest is not playing football—showing up in a suit and staying in it. I'm used to showing up in a suit, then changing into some pads. I'm excited. I'm excited to see some people I haven't seen in a long time."
But while Hasselbeck misses football at times, such as when the excitement builds for the opening kickoff, he's at peace with his decision to retire, especially when he sees a fellow quarterback taking a beating.
"The hardest part is right before kickoff," Hasselbeck said. "I definitely miss it at that point. Then I was watching a game last week and (Bears quarterback Brian Hoyer) broke his arm in two places and had to have surgery, and thought, 'Maybe I don't miss that part of it.' I see Russell (Wilson) playing through a bunch of injuries, and I know what that's like and I don't miss that."
After spending nearly two decades mastering one of the most mentally-demanding positions in sports, Hasselbeck says he feels like a rookie struggling to keep up in an offensive meeting all over again as he adjusts to life in television.
"It's a different language," Hasselbeck said. "When you're a young quarterback, you have to learn terminology, you have to learn the difference between a 546 Navajo front and a 50 W Boss. Now, we use different term like, 'This is a 2-shot. We're going to bump out of it. This is a voiceover. Everyone check your IFP.' Things that are quite honestly over my head right now."
Helping Hasselbeck learn the ropes at ESPN is Trent Dilfer, who also served as a mentor to Hasselbeck when the two were teammates in Seattle.
"He has always been like that older, wiser brother who tells you what to do, so it has been really good," Hasselbeck said. "Good he's definitely showing me the ropes, and there's a lot of rookie hazing that goes on as well."
For Dilfer, who has been back here multiple times since his playing days with ESPN, including when he raised the 12 Flag before a Monday night game in 2012, there isn't as much nostalgia when it comes to returning to Seattle, but Dilfer is excited for what Hasselbeck will get to experience Monday night.
"I'm excited for Matt," Dilfer said. "I know how much this community loves him, how much he did for this community, and this is first time back in this setting. He's going to get a very, very, very warm welcome, because that's how these people are. They're amazing humans up here, a great fanbase, and Matt invested so much into his time here."
Dilfer, who became close friends with Hasselbeck when the two played Seattle, has enjoyed reuniting with his former teammate this year.
"It has been great," Dilfer said. "He's one of my all-time favorite teammates in the NFL, and as a teammate at ESPN, he hasn't disappointed either. He keeps things fun, he's really smart, he's energetic. Whether we're in a meeting, whether we're doing a TV show, prepping, whatever it is, Matt's just always had a way of keeping things light and fun. His preparation is great, so I always trust that what he's going to bring to the show is going to make the show better. And developing chemistry amongst the five of us—it's so easy to integrate him in different situations and different settings."
Dilfer said he tries to help Hasselbeck adjust to his new job when he can, but notes that Hasselbeck "is a natural. What I've told him is, 'Just be yourself. You don't have to be a TV guy, just be you. People like you, you're smart and you're informative, and that's all the audience is looking for.' He has done a heck of a job for as little experience as he has."
Standing on the field where he had so many great moments with the Seahawks, Hasselbeck couldn't help but get a bit nostalgic when remembering some of his favorite—and toughest—games as a Seahawk.
"The NFC Championship Game at home was so cool," Hasselbeck said. "I remember throwing a touchdown pass late in that game, then looking up at the scoreboard to figure out what we needed to do offensively to run the clock out, then realizing, 'Oh wow, we basically just won this game. Who do we play next?' I was like, 'Wait a second, it's the Super Bowl.' For the some reason I never fully grasped that the next game was really the Super Bowl until that moment, so that was really special.
"But I don't know if I remember the good things as much as I remember the things I wish had gone differently. I don't think I'll ever forget that playoff loss to the St. Louis Rams where I had a chance to give Bobby Engram a better pass in front of the goal line, and I didn't. I remember those more than the good stuff."
Hasselbeck's last home game in a Seahawks uniform is also one that stands out for the three-time Pro Bowl quarterback who holds franchise records for pass completions, attempts and passing yards. In a showdown with the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, the 7-9 Seahawks pulled up an upset victory behind Hasselbeck's four-touchdown performance—and a rather memorable run by Marshawn Lynch—then after the game Hasselbeck walked off the field with his son Henry on his shoulders and daughters Mallory and Annabelle at his side.
"That was a special game," Hasselbeck said. "My kids had never been on the field, and one of the other player wives must have known—I did not, but she must have had a feeling that this was going to be my last home game—so she got a police officer to get my kids to the field, and I got to walk off the field with the kids. That is a very, very special memory for them and for me, for sure."
Check out some pregame photos of Seahawks vs Bills during Week 9 at CenturyLink Field.