K.J. Wright arrived in Seattle as a rookie just hoping to find a role on his new team. Ten years later, he has established himself as an all-time great Seahawk, as a well as a staple in the community.
And on Saturday, Wright was once again recognized for his excellence, this time by winning the Male Sports Star of the Year Award at the 86th annual Seattle Sports Star of the Year Awards. The Sports Star of the Year Awards, which were created by legendary Seattle sports writer Royal Brougham and the Seattle Post-Intelligencer in 1936, have celebrated the achievements of Washington sports for nine decades.
"This award, it's truly an honor," Wright said. "It's an award the fans voted for—I've always tried to be a staple in the community, on and off the field, and to be recognized with this award is amazing. I've always watched the show—I've never been—but I've always watched it and seen some of my teammates be a part of it, and I thought it'd be cool to be part of it someday. So I'm really excited."
As Wright mentioned, several of his teammates, current and past, have won this award, most recently Bobby Wagner in 2016. Wagner's win capped a four-year run of Seahawks winners, following Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett.
Wright won this year's Male Sports Start Award over fellow nominees Jordan Morris (Sounders FC), Kyle Lewis (Mariners), Kyle Manzardo (WSU Baseball) and Elijah Molden (UW Football).
This honor caps a very impressive 10th NFL season for Wright, who in December won the Steve Largent Award, one of the team's most prestigious honors. Wright started all 16 games for the second straight year, and after making a selfless position switch to strongside linebacker early in the season, had one of the best seasons of his career. In addition to recording 86 tackles, one interception, one forced fumble and two fumble recoveries, Wright was the only player in the league in 2020 with double-digit passes defensed (10) and tackles for loss (11).
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll described Wright as "a perfect teammate" last season when asked about his willingness to move to strongside linebacker following Bruce Irvin's season-ending knee injury, a move that allowed rookie Jordyn Brooks to get on the field in Wright's usual weakside spot.
"He really not just survived (the position switch), he's excelling in it and doing great," Carroll said during the season. "It says everything about him, but he's been speaking and screaming loudly about who he is for years around here."
Reflecting on all he's accomplished in his career—one that includes Pro-Bowl honors in 2016 and several other Pro-Bowl-caliber seasons that weren't recognized by voters; being the team's Walter Payton Man of the Year Award Nominee in 2018; recording 934 tackles, the third most in team history behind Wagner and Eugene Robinson; helping anchor one of the best defenses in NFL history on the way to a Super Bowl title—Wright admitted it has all been more than he could have envisioned.
"It's amazing," Wright said. "I've accomplished way, way more than I thought I ever could. When I first came here, I just wanted to play football, but you start playing football, and all these different opportunities start opening up for you, so it's just been amazing. I've done everything I could for this city, and I plan to continue to post-football. I just want to be great in the community, help people and be around football."
With free agency looming, Wright isn't sure what his future holds—both he and Carroll have made it clear they'd love to see Wright continue his career in Seattle, but as always in free agency, there are financial decisions to be made by both the team and the player—so while no one knows for sure what's next, Wright does know that this past decade in Seattle has been all he could have hoped for and more.
"It's meant everything," he said. "I believe I put together a Ring-of-Honor resume with my play, how I've helped in the community, helped bring the team a Super Bowl. The legacy is pretty cool. I'm thankful for every play that I've played, and I definitely want to come back and finish it and get a ring. We'll have to wait and see."
The Seahawks were also up for the Seattle Sports Story of the year for a 2020 season that saw them win the NFC West while being the only team in the NFL to go the entire season without a case of COVID-19 among players or coaches, but that award instead went to the the Seattle Storm, who won their second championship in the last three years after sweeping the Las Vegas Aces in the WNBA Finals.
Other awards handed out were Female Sports Star of the Year, which went to Seattle University guard McKenzi Williams; the Paul G. Allen Humanitarian Award, which was won by 20-year NBA veteran and Rainier Beach High School alum Jamal Crawford; the Royal Brougham Sports Legend award, which went to former Mariners manager Lou Piniella; the Keith Jackson Media excellence award, which was awarded to longtime Seattle Times photographer Dean Rutz; the Wayne Gittinger Inspirational Youth Award, which went lacrosse player Matthew Esselsrom; and the Equity and Inclusion in Sports Award, which went to All Girls Everything Ultimate Program (AGE UP).
A look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks linebacker K.J. Wright from the 2020 season.