Seahawks players had a day off from Organized Team Activities, but the indoor practice facility at Virginia Mason Athletic Center was still busy with activity Wednesday afternoon.
As part of the Character Playbook, a new educational initiative focused on youth character development and building healthy relationships, 100 local middle school students visited Seahawks headquarters where they first rotated through on-field stations led by former Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux, including a 40-yard dash, vertical jump and pass-caching drill; then they went into the team's auditorium where Babineaux led a panel discussion that included current Seahawks Tyler Lockett and K.J. Wright, Sea Gal Christian and representatives from the United Way and Verizon, who sponsor Character Playbook, a league-wide program held in all 32 NFL markets.
On the field, students from Dimmit Middle School, Kirkland Middle School and Cedar Heights Middle School were treated to an unexpected bonus of watching Seahawks coaches, including head coach Pete Carroll play one of the intense pickup basketball games that are regular occurrences in the indoor facility. Then they got to work, going through drills led by Babineaux, Lockett and assistant strength and conditioning coach Mondray Gee, with Blitz and Sea Gals there to provide encouragement.
"They're going to remember this for the rest of their lives," said Christina Sutter, an instructional facilitator for the Renton School District. "And this is also a great opportunity for them to take this back to other students. I think it will hope build interests for when we do this in following years… Anti-bullying and character building is something we're incorporating in all of our classes, but this is really cool, because you can see it in action. (Middle school) can be a rough age, so this is really important for them, and it's great for them to be able to take it into high school as well."
After enthusiastically going through drills, the students sat down to hear some important messages and to also ask questions of the players. As Lockett described to an engaged audience, when he was their age, he had to make choices that weren't always the most popular ones in order to stay on the right path.
"You have to be able to be true to yourself and you have to be able to know yourself to where you can make the best decision for yourself," Lockett said. "If you start making decisions you don't necessarily agree with, you're going to end up falling… I had to make tough decisions that made me look like a kid that didn't belong."
Wright also preached the importance of character: "You have to be a champion and have good character off the field. You have to be great in school, you have to respect your teachers, have good manners, be good to the people around you. Ever since I was a kid, my parents instilled those things in me, and those things will carry you a long way in life. Good character will take you a long way in life, people will always notice it."
One point Wright made that was especially relevant given the age of the audience was the importance of surrounding yourself with the right people.
"I believe that you are who you hang out with," Wright said. "If you hang out with the people who are doing bad things, more than likely, you will tend to do those things. But if you surround yourself with the right people, I believe nine times out of 10, you'll do the right thing. So it's up to you to decide who you want in your circle. Just because they're the cool kids in school, just because they're making fun of kids, you want to be a part of those people? No, you've got to surround yourself with the right people, because the wrong person can get you in a lot of trouble. The wrong person can get you suspended from school, they can bring you down. So you want people who uplift you, you want positive people in your life. If you have positive people around you, you'll be positive, so it's really important to surround yourself with the right people with good character.
Both Wright and Lockett have been involved with Character Playbook before today, visiting local schools to help encourage students taking part in the program.
"It's very important, because middle school is where the peer pressure starts to grow in a kid's life," Lockett said. "Sometimes kids need that person who they look up to, or who is where they want to be in life to be able to steer them in the right direction so they don't go to the other side."
The Seahawks hosted 100 local middle school students who have completed the Character Playbook program on Wednesday afternoon at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where they ran through activity stations and had a conversation about the importance of good character with Seattle wideout Tyler Lockett and linebacker K.J. Wright.