Shortly after the Seahawks had exited their indoor practice facility on Saturday at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where the club was holding its final walk thru workout before Sunday's home game against the Houston Texans, a red carpet was rolled out for another group of local athletes who quickly took to the turf for an afternoon of flag football at Seattle's NFL headquarters.
In partnership with Coca-Cola, Special Olympics Washington, and Special Olympics USA, the Seahawks hosted a large group of Special Olympics athletes for a day of on-field engagement with a list of Legends that included former Seattle safety Jordan Babineaux, former offensive linemen Ray Roberts and Edwin Bailey, former fullback David Kirtman and more. Current Seahawks players were also on hand, as cornerback DeShawn Shead and offensive linemen Germain Ifedi, Luke Joeckel, Ethan Pocic, and Jordan Roos greeted the event's attendees.
"The Seattle Seahawks, as well as Coca-Cola are both partners of the USA Games, so the three of us have joined together today to bring Special Olympics Washington athletes and Seattle Seahawks Legends, who are also USA Games ambassadors, here today to help really engage the Special Olympics athletes in some flag football drills so that they can train for their competitions in the future," said Beth Knox, President & CEO of the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, which are set to take place next July in Seattle. "So this is a great way to for us to connect all of our partners together while building anticipation and excitement for next summer's games."
While next summer's USA Games will feature of variety of sports, from traditional athletics like basketball, soccer, softball, and tennis to more obscure athletics like bocce, bowling, and stand up paddle boarding, Saturday's focus with the Seahawks was primarily on football, with flag football in particular being an area that Special Olympics Washington has recently worked to include in its athletic offerings.
"Flag football is new for us in the state of Washington, and that's great," said Dave Lenox, President & CEO at Special Olympics Washington. "We're right in the middle of our flag football season and the big state championships won't be until December 10, so this is a good time for them to get some more basics down and make sure that they're well trained.
"This state lives and breathes Seahawks and we're always looking for ways for our athletes to get into more active sports, and things that are just cool," he added. "There has to be a cool factor to it, too. Before, people think Special Olympics and they think, 'Ah, isn't that sweet?' Our athletes don't want any of that. They want to be the cool kids. They want to be the ones that are doing the really fun stuff."
Ahead of next summer's Special Olympics USA Games set to take place in Seattle, the Seahawks, in partnership with Coca-Cola, hosted a group of Special Olympics athletes at team headquarters on Saturday, October 28 for an afternoon of flag football with NFL Legends.
That "fun stuff" was apparent Saturday, as Special Olympics athletes were treated to a showy, red-carpet entrance and received handfuls of swag that the Seahawks Legends signed before they ran the group through offensive and defensive flag football drills.
"I got to stand outside with some of the Special Olympics athletes prior to coming in. They were jumping with excitement," said Jon Webster, Division Vice President, Swire Coca-Cola, USA. "Their 'SEA-HAWKS' chant was as loud as you hear at any game at CenturyLink Field. They're excited to be here and I will tell you the Legends of the Seahawks, they seem to be just as excited, or more so, than the athletes."
Roberts, a first-round draft pick by the Seahawks in 1992 who's on board to serve as an ambassador for next summer's USA Games, can attest to Webster's point. He called Saturday's event a "pretty amazing" experience for both the Special Olympics athletes and himself.
"It's pretty cool because a lot of those athletes are big football fans," Roberts said. "I know growing up I was a huge football fan, if I wasn't able to play it would be really difficult. This gives them a platform and an opportunity to get out and play and they can wear their favorite player's jersey, they wear their favorite team's logos and colors and all those kinds of things and they can feel part of all this excitement that other fans get to feel as players, as high school players, college players, and then just the weekend warriors. So they have their own brand of football as well.
"These kids are just as big of athletes, they work just as hard, they sacrifice just as much," he added. "So for them to be able to use their skills and talents in a place like this is pretty spectacular for them."
To learn more about next summer's Special Olympics USA Games in Seattle, including information on how to become a volunteer, head to specialolympicsusagames.org/.