When Bobby Engram and fellow Seahawks receivers started celebrating touchdowns by doing “the sprinkler” during the 2003 season, he, Darrell Jackson and Koren Robinson had a message for their quarterback.
“They were like, ‘Do us a favor, don’t do the sprinkler,'’’ Matt Hasselbeck recalled with a laugh on Monday.
Fifteen years later, it was Hasselbeck’s kids, not his receivers, worried about him embarrassing them, which is why Henry Hasselbeck’s advice to his father before the Seahawks’ Monday night game against the Vikings was an inspiring, “Don’t screw it up, dad.”
What the younger Hasselbeck was concerned about was how his father would do raising the 12 Flag prior to kickoff, something Hasselbeck admitted beforehand caused him to be, “maybe the most nervous I’ve ever been in this stadium. I don’t know.”
The flag raising went off without a hitch, with the crowd going crazy when Hasselbeck was announced, but he was nervous anyway because as a player he saw how much that moment just before kickoff meant to the team and to fans.
“It’s a huge honor, it’s a huge honor,” said Hasselbeck, who was in town for his job as an analyst for ESPN’s Monday Night Countdown. “It’s one of the coolest things that the Seahawks do here. You go play in other stadiums, and other teams try to do something like this, but it’s like a cheap knockoff that could never compare. It’s one of the coolest things in all of sports. So many times on the sidelines, I would just get goosebumps seeing whoever it was, whatever their story was—local person, war hero—then the reaction from the stadium. The best ever was probably Paul Allen in ’05 in the NFC Championship game—I’m getting goosebumps right now thinking about it; it was incredible… It just totally sets the tone for kickoff. It’s cool. It’s really cool.”
Hasselbeck began his Seahawks career while the team was temporarily playing at Husky Stadium and struggling to win games and build a following; he was a key figure in the team’s rise under Mike Holmgren, which culminated in a Super Bowl appearance after the 2005 season; and he left after being part of one last NFC West championship run during Pete Carroll’s first season in Seattle. Those Holmgren-era teams had a huge hand in making the Seahawks relevant on a national level, and the raucous scene at what is now known as CenturyLink Field were a big part of the legacy of those early 2000s teams.
“Our goal was to make Seattle a national team,” Hasselbeck said. “We never really felt like we were a national team. We’d finish our game and go home and watch SportsCenter or NFL Primetime or whatever, and we would not get a highlight. They’d show everybody’s highlights, then they’d show our box score. Even in this town, you couldn’t find Seahawks gear. If you wanted Seahawks gear, you had to go right over there on Occidental. You weren’t getting it anywhere else.”
With the Seahawks becoming postseason regulars under Paul Allen’s leadership, first under Holmgren, then eventually Super Bowl champs under Carroll, Hasselbeck and his former teammates saw the franchise accomplish that goal they set so long ago.
“I just remember being in New York City for the Super Bowl (XLVIII) seeing Seahawks gear everywhere, it was just awesome,” Hasselbeck said. “It was one of the many goals we had, just trying to make this team relevant everywhere. I love it. I love that it’s like the cool team right now.”
Hasselbeck included the team’s action green uniforms as part of their current “cool team” status, so the natural follow up was, could you have pulled it off?
“If I knew we were going to wear it, I would have trained in such a way to make sure it didn’t look bad,” he said. “I don’t know about the linemen though.”
In addition to being honored by his former team and the fans—Hasselbeck was also introduced on-field along with Jim Zorn during a break in the game—Hasselbeck also had to do his job on Sunday and Monday, and the analyst in him has been impressed by what the Seahawks have done this season.
“It’s so impressive,” he said. “I don’t know how you can’t consider Pete Carroll for coach of the year. This is an incredible job that he has done, especially after starting out the way that they did, and losing the pieces that they’ve lost. But what they’ve done, especially compared to what everyone else is doing—everyone else is pass-happy; they’re going the opposite way. He is doubling down on what he believes in, and it’s working for them.”
Former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck raises the 12 Flag prior to Seattle's Monday Night Football matchup against the Minnesota Vikings in Week 14 of the 2018 NFL season at CenturyLink Field.