There's no easy way to sum up the relationship between a beloved, Hall of Fame-caliber player and the franchise where he spent the first 10 seasons of his career, but a pair of whiteboards on the third floor of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center help give a little glimpse of who Bobby Wagner was and what he means to his former team.
Just days after he was released in a salary cap-related move, Wagner made his way to the part of Seahawks headquarters rarely seen by players—the place where us mere mortals work—and left a pair of simple thank you notes on two different whiteboards that read, "Thank you for everything! Bwagz"
To think to leave that kind of thank you days after being released shows the kind of person Wagner is, and the fact that no one has dared to use those two whiteboards for the past 10 months is a good indicator of how revered Wagner is within the walls of the building he called home for a decade, a feeling that extends to his former teammates who will face Wagner for the second time this season when the Rams play at Lumen Field Sunday.
The Seahawks already faced Wagner once this season when Seattle beat the Rams in Week 13, and the game was a win-win scenario for any Seahawks fan who was torn between loyalty to their team with the love they have for one of the greatest players in franchise history—the Seahawks left L.A. with a victory, but Wagner also had a great game, including a pair of sacks and an interception. There was plenty of trash talk during the game between Wagner and former teammates, but the scene postgame was a big love fest, one that extended to a meeting between Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and Wagner well after the game had ended and after Carroll held his postgame press conference.
This weekend, however, will likely be even more memorable for Wagner because it will be his first game back at Lumen Field, and it will be Seahawks' fans first chance to welcome a beloved former player home.
"They're going to be great," Carroll said when asked what kind of reception he thinks Wagner will receive at Lumen Field. "They love him. I think they're going to welcome him back. I just think that's what'll happen. Then if he makes a tackle or something, then maybe they don't give him as much love. I don't know. He's going to make some hits in this game. He's playing good ball and doing good stuff, but they'll do the right thing. Whatever it is, they'll do it."
By far the biggest storyline for the Seahawks this week is their attempt to secure a playoff berth, and to do that they know they'll have to beat the Rams, not to mention get some help from the Lions. So the focus heading into the game is squarely on getting ready to beat an opposing team, not on reacting to the presence of one player. But for the Seahawks fans who came to love Wagner as he helped lead some of the best defenses in franchise history, there will surely be a little extra love showered on one player suited up for a division rival.
"They will show him all the love and all the appreciation that he so richly deserves," defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt said. "I can't say enough great things about Bobby. It's one of those things in a competition level where you want to go after guys and compete and go win and kick butt. There are certain guys, and he's one of them where you have so much admiration for a player and respect for a guy, you just want to see him do his very best. Obviously, he had a great game against us the last one out, and I hope all the 12s do that for him on Sunday. He deserves it and more."
Added outside linebacker Darrell Taylor, "It's going to be crazy. I think they will welcome him, for sure. He is a great guy, great leader, great player, and great person, so I think they will welcome him. We, for sure, will too, that's our old teammate, so we love him to death. He's going to keep doing great things, as he should."
Talking to reporters in L.A., Wagner said there will be "a lot of emotions" this week, and he's also relishing the role of spoiler.
"It's going into a stadium I've been in thousands of times, played in hundreds of times," he said. "To be in a position to spoil their playoff hopes is always a good position, something worth playing for. It'll be fun to go back there, be back in front of those fans where I spent so much time. It should be a fun game."
Wagner is also hoping to create a better memory at Lumen Field than his last game there, which ended with a knee injury on the first play of what ended up being his final game as a Seahawk.
Asked about what he was going to let himself feel when the takes the field Sunday, Wagner said, "The energy of the crowd, the moments that I had there. For me the last time I played there wasn't a great one, so I'm just blessed to be able to have an opportunity to have that not be my last play at that field."
Wagner also talked about the love he felt after joining the Seahawks as a rookie out of Utah State when asked about what he appreciated during his time in Seattle.
"The love, to be honest," he said. "Coming from L.A., Ontario area to Utah to Seattle, that really became my second home, and it's the place where I grew up. I grew up in California, but really, 21, I was on my own, making my own decisions, doing my own thing, I didn't have the parents controlling everything, that's like really where I grew up. They accepted me, they showed a lot of love, so I'm forever grateful."
The Seahawks and Rams face off for the first game of the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT. Take a look back through history at the Seahawks' matchups against the Rams.