Bobby Wagner arrived in Seattle as a second-round pick who was looking to prove that a slightly undersized linebacker from Utah State belonged in the NFL.
A decade later, he leaves the Seahawks as an all-time great who rewrote the franchise record books, helped lead one of the best defenses in NFL history, and who will almost certainly end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame when his career comes to an end.
The Seahawks released Wagner on Wednesday, bringing to an end a decade-long run in Seattle in which Wagner established himself as one of the best players of his generation.
"When I first got into the league, I was just trying to figure out what goals I could set for myself," Wagner said late last season. "The first goal was—when I got here everyone was saying that players only last three years—I was trying to get to at least five. And once I got to five, I wanted to see if I could get to 10."
Wagner not only got to 10 seasons, he spent those 10 years establishing himself as an all-time great linebacker, earning a team-record eight All-Pro selections, including six first-team nods, as well as eight Pro-Bowl selections. He was also named to the NFL's All-Decade Team for the 2010s.
"This is an extremely difficult day for the organization," general manager John Schneider said. "Bobby has been at the center of our defense for the past 10 seasons and always represented our organization with class. He is a special player and person, and we are forever grateful. Bobby will always be a Hawk."
Said Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, "Bobby is one of the great Seahawks of all-time. His leadership in the community, locker room, and on the field is a tribute to his character and consistency. Bobby set an incredible example for all to follow, and we will continue to follow him all the way to the Hall of Fame."
With the Seahawks releasing Wagner now rather than further down the road in the offseason, he can negotiate with other teams right away, ahead of the start of the new league year next week, giving him a head start on free agency.
After joining the Seahawks on the same day as Russell Wilson—the two were selected less than two hours apart as part of a memorable 2012 Draft class—Wagner went on to record at least 100 tackles every season for a decade, piling up a franchise record 1,381. He also held the team's single season tackle record with 167 in 2016, a total he surpassed last season with 170 through 15 games, only to have teammate Jordyn Brooks pass him with 183 after Wagner missed all but one play of the final two games due to a knee injury. That injury broke a remarkable streak of durability for a player at one of the game's most physical positions, with Wagner starting 110 of 112 games from the start of the 2016 season until his Week 17 injury last season. Wagner's 150 career starts as a Seahawk are the 10th most in franchise history.
"The thing I love about looking at great players is, do they show that ability to do it year after year after year?" Carroll once said when talking about Wagner. "I think that's what greatness is all about. Bobby's put together a resume of really Hall of Fame stuff. This is the kind of guy that gets there someday. To add on to that, the leadership that he's brought and the direction and focus that he's brought on a regular basis—really, he has been a perfect Seahawk throughout the whole time he's been here."
With Wagner in the middle of Seattle's defense, the Seahawks had one of the best defensive seasons in NFL history in 2013, leading the league in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and takeaways before going on to dominate the highest scoring offense in NFL history in Seattle's 43-8 victory over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. And from 2012-2015, the Seahawks defense led the NFL in scoring defense for four straight seasons, making them the only team in the Super Bowl era to accomplish that feat.
Wagner also made his mark in the community, both in Seattle and his hometown of Ontario, California, often choosing to do so quietly behind the scenes. He won the team's Steve Largent Award in 2017, and was the team's nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2019. And while Wagner has never been one to seek out the spotlight, he also recognized that as a star NFL player, he has a platform, and in recent years has made an effort to use that for good, whether it be supporting Historically Black Colleges and Universities, or using his weekly press conferences to encourage those listening to support and uplift women in their lives, or to take part in random acts of kindness, or to support locally-owned business, or simply to pick up a book that he has found helpful in his life.
Bobby Wagner's impact in the community was as large as his impact on the field during his time with the Seahawks. Take a look back at photos of Wagner at various community events throughout his time in Seattle.
A six-time team captain, Wagner not only was a dominant force on the field for the Seahawks, he was also a once-in-a-generation leader who could command the respect of everyone in the locker room while also using his platform to help inspire people to make better the community around them.
"He has been a marvelous example of what leadership is all about," Carroll said last season. "I can't even remember him any time where he wasn't in that position. He's a Hall of Fame player and he will be there as soon as they can get him in there. He has proven that."
Check out photos of Seahawks linebacker Bobby Wagner from throughout his ten seasons in Seattle.