Cliff Avril's tenure with the Seahawks unfortunately has come to an early end, with Seattle releasing the veteran defensive end Friday with a failed physical designation. Avril sustained a neck injury that ended his 2017 season after four games.
Avril, 32, joined the Seahawks as a free-agent signing in 2013, signing a day before Michael Bennett in what would end up being a very significant two-day span in the team's history. Over the next five seasons, Avril became one of top players on a defense that would lead the NFL in scoring defense and total defense in 2013 and 2014, and scoring defense again in 2015.
Avril recorded 33.5 sacks in his four full seasons from 2013 to 2016, as well as 13 forced fumbles. He earned Pro-Bowl honors for the first time in 2016 after recording 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles.
Avril was also part of one of the most famous plays in franchise history, putting a hit on Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning to cause an errant pass, which Malcolm Smith returned for a touchdown in Seattle's 43-8 victory in Super Bowl XLVIII.
"Thank you 12s for making the last 5 years in Seattle so amazing!" Avril captioned in a post on Instagram. "Your cheers on Sundays are unmatched, and you guys are by far the best fans in the NFL! Most importantly, I appreciate and value the lifelong friendships I've made. You all have supported my family, my foundation (the Cliff Avril Family Foundation), and I throughout my entire tenure, and I could not have asked for more! THANK YOU to the entire Seahawk organization as well as my teammates. You all made me a Pro Bowler and a Super Bowl Champ! I am forever grateful. THANK YOU! #HAITIANCREATION"
"Cliff was a fantastic player for us," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We were very fortunate to get him back when we did years ago. And because of where he had been and what he had been through, he came in with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove, and did nothing but great stuff. He has been a great leader and a bit of a statesman for us. He always says the right thing and stands for the right stuff and he has been a really high-character guy who you can just always count on. He has been a great competitor in the program. I love him, and we'd like to keep him connected with our club as long as we can, because he's just exactly what you'd hope to represent you. He has had a great career with us, we couldn't have done it without him. I know this is a turn for him, but it's a good turn. He's had a good career that he put behind him and he's moving on feeling good, and we'll always be grateful for all the work he brought us."
Yet for all Avril did on the field, he arguably has made a bigger impact during his career with the work he has done in the community, not just in the Seattle area, but also in his hometown of Jacksonville, as well as in Haiti, where both of his parents grew up before immigrating to the United States. Avril, who was the team's 2016 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award nominee, has been the Haiti each of the past three offseasons to help build a school in La Chanm, a rural area in Haiti's Central Plateau region.
"It has been awesome," Avril said last month. "It has been great to be able to do something like this, to be able to go back to a country that I love so much as I've gotten to learn the history of the country and the people there, understanding who these people are and what they're unfortunately going through. To be in a situation to be able to give back is the biggest thing for me. I have cousins who still live there, and I could easily be one of those kids. For me to be able to go back and see them and be able to give back, it's an honor and a blessing. I'm just grateful to be able to have the platform to do so."
Closer to home, the Cliff Avril Family Foundation raises money and awareness to fight Type 2 diabetes in youth and encourages healthy living through nutrition and exercise. Both in the Seattle area, which Avril plans to make his full-time home, and in Haiti, Avril plans to continue the good work even if his playing days are over.
"Big picture, regardless of if I play ball or not, the goal is to continue to keep helping, continue to keep trying to make a difference over there," Avril said last month. "When you're playing, you obviously have a bigger platform and are able to raise money and do different things, but regardless of what happens, the community here, they get behind us, they've helped me build this school, and I believe the opportunities will still be there as long as I continue to be a part of the community and do good things. So the goal is to continue to keep doing good things in Haiti, whether it's building a community, maybe it's another school project, I'm not sure. But I'm going to keep chopping away, that's for sure, and hopefully the 12s continue to stick by my side and help with that process."
Fans who want to help Avril continue his work in Haiti, as well as the work his Cliff Avril Family Foundation does with JDRF.org, can do so by attending his foundation's Ping Pong Slam at SPiN Seattle on May 19. Tickets and more information on the event can be found here.
Take a look back at the best photos of defensive end Cliff Avril, who the Seahawks released Friday with a failed physical designation after five years with the club.