At this time last year, Christine Michael was preparing for his first game as a Dallas Cowboy, having been traded there days earlier by a Seahawks team that had decided to part ways with its former second-round pick after two seasons.
Nine months ago, Thomas Rawls limped off of the field in Baltimore with a broken ankle that would end his season and require surgery.
But when the Seahawks open the 2016 season Sunday against Miami, both Rawls and Michael will be a big part of Seattle's offensive plans, a significant accomplishment for each back. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said Friday that Michael will be Seattle's Week 1 starter, while Rawls, who only returned to preseason action last week with two carries against Oakland, will play, but perhaps be limited in his workload.
For Michael, starting the opener for the team that only a year earlier jettisoned him for a seventh-round pick completes a remarkable turnaround that began when he returned to the team late last season following Rawls' injury.
Humbled after having three teams give up on him in one season—the Cowboys released Michael last season, then Washington released him from its practice squad before he returned to Seattle—Michael began to fully understand what it meant to be a professional. And part of that growth was owning up to the fact that he was the one mostly responsible for his departure from Seattle.
"(The Seahawks) wanted me to get it, they believed in the talent—if not, they wouldn't have drafted me—they loved me as a person; it was just me," Michael said. "I wasn't doing my job, I wasn't as consistent every day as I am now, just being a little knuckle head, you know what I mean."
Michael calls it a privilege and an honor to start this week, but ultimately he just wants to be a good team player this week and beyond to reward Seattle for re-signing him last year, then again this offseason when he was a free agent.
"My thing is just helping contribute to this team as much as possible," Michael said. "Whether I'm in there, whether it's Thomas, C.J. (Prosise), Alex (Collins), I just want to be a part of it. It just feels special to be a part of a group of guys that cares so much about each individual guy. It's a good group of coaches. So my thing is, (whether I'm) starting, second string, third string, I just want to contribute, show guys I can be consistent, I can be dependable, they can count on me, and that I just know what I'm doing, know my job."
If getting traded by one team and released by two more helped Michael turn things around, what will keep him going now is the thought of being a provider and a good example for his 3-year-old daughter Mia and 5-month-old son Christine Jr.
"That's my life there, that's what I come to work for," Michael said. "That's what I think about when I'm on the field, my children…. I love them to death, I can't help but do well for them. I don't want them to grow up like I did. I'm in a great position to do great things for myself, and hopefully I'll just keep going."
Rawls, meanwhile, never doubted that he would return to football this season, but his Week 1 status was in question when he opened the season on the physically unable to perform list. But both in his rehab work and when he returned to practice, Rawls showed what Carroll called an "extraordinary" work ethic to get ready for this game.
"He's just diligent," Carroll said. "He's taken all of the right steps along the way to show that he's ready and prepared. He's really practiced well. He has practiced at an extraordinary level, tempo wise, to show himself and everybody else that he's ready to go. We have no question if he's ready to play."
Rawls feel like he is ready to carry the ball as often as asked Sunday, but he also trusts the coaching staff and training staff if they decide to limit his workload. And regardless of how many touches he gets, Sunday will be a special day for Rawls as he takes the final step in his comeback from the injury that ended such a promising rookie season.
"I'm fired up and ready to go," Rawls said. "I've worked so hard and the opener is here. I'm excited… It's a huge accomplishment. I've worked so hard at it. I've had some ups and downs with it. I'm very grateful for the opportunity just to get back out there and play with my teammates again."
The Seattle Seahawks have faced the Miami Dolphins 15 times dating back to 1977, going 4-8 in the regular season and 1-2 in the postseason. They'll look to add another win this Sunday, October 4 at 10 a.m. PT at Hard Rock Stadium.