If the only thing Thomas Rawls did between now and the summer was rehabilitate his broken ankle and prepare for his second season with the Seattle Seahawks, that would be a good offseason from a football standpoint.
But Rawls has more on his mind than football these days, so while Rawls has every intention of getting healthy before training camp begins, he first wants to find ways to help his hometown of Flint, Michigan.
Flint, a city that has struggled economically for decades since General Motors closed factories in the area in the 1980s, is going through a new and very serious crisis, and is currently in a federal state of emergency because of dangerous levels of lead in the water supply.
For Rawls, a player who on many occasions has talked about how Flint helped shape the person and player he is today, that news has hit hard.
“I will go home, because there’s a lot going on back in Flint, Michigan as far as with the water,” Rawls said Monday as players cleaned out their lockers. “I ask the world to just pray for Flint, Michigan, where I’m from. I can’t wait to go back home and help out with that. I may even try to dig a well and try to connect it to another city or something. I want to be Superman to my city. I love my city. I don’t want to get emotional about it, but I will go home.
“I’ve got a lot of family there, a lot of friends. That’s where I grew up at. So to know that the water is bad and to know that there’s not a lot being done back in Flint, Michigan, is kind of upsetting. It’s kind of emotional just to know my family and friends and stuff are there.”
Rawls is still figuring out the details of how he’ll help, but even if digging to another city isn’t realistic, he fully intends on finding a way to help provide clean water to the people in his home town.
"One thing that I can control is do what I can do as far as on my end, and that’s going back home, donating, having something around for the city as far as people having free water, stuff like that,” Rawls said. “Because it’s kind of hard when you can’t even shower in your own shower, when you can’t drink your own water. It’s upsetting to know that I’ve got nieces and nephews, and their skin’s breaking out. I’ve got friends, they have kids. It’s already hard in the city, just because. But just to add that on your plate, it’s kind of tough.
"But one thing I can tell you about the people in Flint is they’re tough, and they are built for it. And that’s one thing that I just want to display and show my gratitude through them, go back home and do a lot for the city.”
But while Flint is understandably on Rawls’ mind right now, he is also focused on getting health and building on a very promising rookie season. After signing with Seattle as an undrafted rookie out of Central Michigan, Rawls not only won a roster spot, he became a big part of the Seahawks offense with Marshawn Lynch battling multiple injuries throughout the season.
Rawls finished his rookie campaign with 830 rushing yards on 147 carries, giving him a 5.6 yard-per-carry average that was tops in the league among runners with at least 100 rushes. Rawls eclipsed the 100-yard mark in four of seven starts, and one of the three in which he didn’t was Seattle’s Week 14 win in Baltimore when Rawls had 44 yards on the first drive of the game before suffering a season-ending ankle injury. Rawls also set a Seahawks rookie record with 209 rushing yards in a Week 11 win over San Francisco.
“It’s going to be great,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of having Rawls back and healthy. “He had a fantastic start, and he has a great attitude. He’s a great kid. It will be really fun to put him back out there and see how he does. Now we know what we have, so it’ll be even more exciting. He’s confident that he’ll get it done, and he’s got plenty of time. So that should be a really interesting spot.”
Both Carroll and Rawls said the plan is for the running back to be ready for training camp, and Rawls is in good spirits despite the fact that he is still in a cast and reliant on a scooter to get around.
“I’m feeling good,” Rawls said. “I had a great season, got a chance to build relationships with the fellas, and now I’m just starting rehabbing and starting treatment... It was an exciting season. I’m a rookie, I finished it up with a great group of guys and a great group of coaches and a fabulous organization, and I’m just so excited to come back.”
But first, there are more serious needs for Rawls to attend to back home.
“I will be back home in Flint within the next few weeks,” Rawls said. “And I will have something to give to city, because I’m able to now.”
A bittersweet day at VMAC as the Seahawks players clean out their lockers for the offseason and spend their final moments together as the 2015 squad before heading off in separate directions for their Championship Offseason.