This story originally appeared in the December 21 edition of Hawk Mail. To subscribe to Hawk Mail, click here.
Jon Ryan has the biggest leg and holiday spirit on the Seattle Seahawks and it's not even close.
For the Seahawks punter, this is the best time of the year. Ryan is one of the biggest advocators for the Christmas holiday season, so much so, that he begins decorating his house by the middle of November. His decorations aren't just a tree and lights, he goes above and beyond with four trees — including one that snows on itself — a 50-inch leg lamp in his front window from the movie A Christmas Story and a train with numerous tracks that he has spent "several hundred dollars" on.
But Ryan isn't the only Seahawks player with a big heart for the holiday that brings everyone together. Besides himself, several other players in Seattle's locker room have their lockers decked out with Christmas lights to feel a little more festive during the cold month of December. Earl Thomas and Byron Maxwell even have their own mini Christmas trees inside their lockers.
With it being one of the most joyful times of year, I gathered three Seahawks players and questioned them about their favorite holiday traditions, memories, gifts and more. Here's the panel:
(Obviously) Jon Ryan, Punter
Duane Brown, Tackle
K.J. Wright, Linebacker
What do you look forward to the most during the holidays?
Ryan:"I think just being with friends and family – being able to catch up.
"Me and my wife always spend Christmas at a lodge because that's a good spot to relax."
Brown:"I just like the feeling of this time of the year. It's a time of giving, a time of togetherness and just a good spirit overall."
Wright: "The whole family getting together, watching basketball. I remember when Kobe (Bryant) used to play, he played on Christmas all the time, so that was definitely one of my favorite things growing up."
Do you have a favorite holiday tradition?
(I guessed for Ryan that his favorite is putting up all the decorations.)
Ryan: "That is probably one of the highlights. Putting up all of the decorations gets you instantly in the Christmas spirit."
Brown:"Not really. We're usually working around this time of the year, so my wife and I give each other gifts the night before (Christmas). That's about the only tradition that holds true for us."
Wright:"I love waking up in the morning and reading the Bible. You've got to have a Jesus story. To read the story of Jesus and how he was born, it keeps the element in it."
Do you open presents on Christmas morning or Christmas Eve?
Ryan:"We've always believed in Christmas morning. No cheating."
Brown:"We do one on Christmas Eve and then the rest on Christmas morning."
Wright:"Growing up, we opened gifts as soon as it hit midnight. That's the way I did it as a kid, but as of now, me and my kids wait until the morning of to open gifts."
Do you get a fake Christmas tree or a real one?
Brown:"Fake tree. I'm not the guy to go pick out a real one and deal with that."
Wright: "I've never used a real Christmas tree, they've all been fake. I'll probably never get a real Christmas tree."
What's the best present you've received?
Ryan:"My wife gets me a lot of good gifts. I think the most memorable gifts are when you're a kid and you get things that you ask for in May because you can't afford it. I got a football helmet once and my brother also got a football helmet and we just spent the whole Christmas season running at each other from across the entire basement going head-first.
"It was a replica helmet. He got the 49ers and I got the Bears. And we thought they were real, but … they weren't."
Brown:"My wife got me a signed Muhammad Ali glove a couple of years ago. That meant a lot to me … that's my favorite athlete of all-time and somebody I admired, so that really meant a lot to me for her to give me that."
Wright:"Three years ago, the wife gave me my TV for my man cave. It's a nice VIZIO flat screen, I love it. It's 70 inches maybe, I don't know, it's pretty big."
What's the best present you've given out?
Ryan:"My wife's engagement ring. It was a couple of days after Christmas (December 28)."
Brown:"Going back to memorabilia, I got my wife a Tupac autograph. I had to find it and it taxed me for sure, but that's just like what Muhammad Ali means to me is what Tupac means to her. I don't think I'll ever be able to out-do that for the rest of my life.
"Somebody I knew had some connections with it that found it. It's a piece of paper, but it's authentic. I got her that with a painting that somebody in Houston did for her so that was pretty dope."
Wright:"This year's going to be one of my favorites, I already know. It's for my son. I have a Cadillac truck and I gave my son a Cadillac truck – the little ones you drive. He's going to love it."
What kind of food do you eat for Christmas dinner?
Ryan:"We're eating at a lodge this year so they do a big dinner there. It's just kind of whatever is on the menu."
Brown:"It's similar to Thanksgiving for us — turkey, stuffing, sweet potatoes, potato salad, mac n cheese, greens, it's very similar. No roast beef, none of that."
Wright: "We're not too traditional with our Christmas (meal) like we are on Thanksgiving. We might have a little spaghetti. That's all I can think of."
Is there a memorable moment you can think of from Christmas as a kid?
Ryan: "I think it was always Christmas morning, just that excitement — the excitement that I think only a kid can feel. Walking down the stairs and getting ready to see what Santa left. I think just that excitement was kind of my best memory."
Brown:"I was a big New York Giants fan growing up, Lawrence Taylor was my favorite player … my mom had got me — it was like the replica but it seemed authentic — a Giants helmet with his jersey. She got me that one year and I wore it all day. I think that was my best gift growing up."
Wright:"I always wanted a bike when I was younger. I was opening my gifts and I didn't see a bike and I started to get a little sad, and lo and behold my dad went behind the Christmas tree and in the corner the bike was there. So I was pretty happy and excited about that."