Before Kris Richard's time coaching the Seahawks, and before his playing career in the NFL and his graduate assistantship at USC, the man who now works as Seattle's defensive coordinator played one season for the Trojans under the school's new head football coach named Pete Carroll.
The year was 2001 when Richard, USC's starting defensive back at the time who would go on to be a third-round pick of the Seahawks, met the man who he would eventually coach alongside in back-to-back trips to the Super Bowl. Richard didn't know much about his new head coach back then, only that "he had professional experience" in stints with the Bills, Vikings, Jets, 49ers, and Patriots. Richard's early impression? The legitimacy of Carroll's intensity.
"I've been asked that question a few times and it was the genuineness of his energy," Richard recalled. "You know how when you've got somebody who's trying to sell a little false enthusiasm? Well no, that wasn't ever the case. So we're all kind of sitting back waiting like, 'All right wait a minute, he's trying to sell us a bill of goods here,' like he couldn't possibly be this jacked up, this excited and this fired up every day.
"Every day he came in and proved us wrong, so he made believers out of us really quick."
Richard's initial take on coach Carroll is a storyline this week as several Seattle players, coaches, and staff with Los Angeles-area ties return to southern California this Sunday for a game against the Rams, the NFL's first game in L.A. in 22 years following the team's relocation from St. Louis this past offseason. The Week 2 contest between the Seahawks and Rams will be held at L.A. Memorial Coliseum, a stadium that brings back many fond memories for Seahawks players and coaches alike. Carroll's success on that field has been well documented, with the Trojans winning seven straight Pac-10 titles, two national championships, and owning a 97-19 record under his lead from 2001-09.
"I think it's just the culture of USC and how much the university means to the city and how he sort of resurrected the town around a team that had not been doing so well," Richard said of why Carroll is still so important to the L.A. area. "When I played there it was a lot of empty seats in the Coliseum. A couple years afterwards when coach Carroll arrives, that stadium is filled to capacity. He was able to have a lot of success.
"It's a city where success is something that is really smiled upon and supported. He was able to provide that."
Outside of football, Carroll's community work in the L.A. area has been equally as impactful. He helped establish ‘A Better L.A.’ to reduce gang violence and empower change in individuals by going into at-risk communities and asking "the right people the right questions," Richard said.
"You turn on the television you see the type of things that are happening in the inner city," said Richard. "He wanted to come in and have a positive impact there. Obviously for us, for those who are from the city or any inner city, that's more of a difference than the success that the Trojans have been able to have. It's kind of the influence that he wanted to have in there. Trying to do everything he can to make a better L.A., have a great impact on his environment."
To this day, Carroll continues his work with 'A Better L.A.' as well as ‘A Better Seattle,’ which he launched in September 2011.
"Forget the winning and the losing," Richard added. "It's about what you can do for people."