Seattle's Week 8 Matchup at Dallas a Homecoming for Texas-Native Seahawks

Nine Seahawks players have home ties to the great state of Texas.

Friday nights, under the lights - in Texas.

It's where legends are made and NFL careers are born. Football, it seems, is a way of life in Texas, intentional or otherwise.

"My mom has a picture in her room of my dad and my godfather, I'm like 2 days old and I'm sitting on top of my dad's football helmet from college. He's wearing his jersey and my godfather is wearing his jersey, so I'm fresh out of the hospital and they're already posing me for football stuff," Seahawks long snapper Clint Gresham said of how long football has been part of his life.

Born in Corpus Christi, Texas, Gresham is one of nine players on the Seattle roster who grew up in Texas. The Seahawks game in Dallas on Nov. 1 gives many of them a chance to see family and friends, as well as reflect on how the football-loving culture in the state helped shape their love of the game.

"Well, as a child if you're not playing football something's wrong with you. Or if you don't want to play football something's wrong with you," Houston-native left tackle Russell Okung said jokingly.

Football is not only the most popular high school sport in the state, but Texas leads the country in the number of high school football players according to an annual survey conducted by the National Federation of State High School Associations.

"Growing up in Texas, it's so much more of the culture down there," Gresham said. "I look at the sports played up here. Lacrosse is so much bigger up here. Growing up in high school I don't think I'd heard of lacrosse. I don't know a single person who ever played lacrosse. Everyone played football. You'd have 70 guys on your team."

"Honestly it's a huge deal," Okung said more seriously. "It's a huge deal to go out and buy your pads. The stores are constantly sold out because people are always getting something."

"Everyone knows that football started in Texas," quipped Alief native Michael Bennett. "So you know, in high school, middle school, I'm used to playing on big stages."

Rod Mar heads down to Orange, Texas to visit with Earl Thomas at his free youth football camp hosted in what he calls the true football heart of Texas.

It's a prevailing feeling across the state. Fans passionately root for their college and NFL teams, but there's nothing quite like the feeling of a Friday night game when the entire town gets involved.

"There's different parts of Texas and I think me being in the country part of Texas really helped me get the sense of the Friday night lights," Orange native free safety Earl Thomas explained. "The whole sense of everything is closed, nothing's really going on, everyone is there trying to watch you play and that's the importance factor. It's really big in Texas."

All it took was one Pop Warner game for Thomas to become hooked on the sport. Of course it didn't hurt that he recalls scoring "six or seven touchdowns" in that game. The first football memory for Okung, however, didn't involve the same kind of glamour.

"My earliest memory is running my first gassers and it did not go well," Okung said. "I also had my first asthma attack out there. I didn't know football was for me at the beginning. It was like 100 degrees but it's a way of life. It's part of ball and every kid runs their first gasser and struggles at it."

Fred Jackson can trace his earliest football memories to the site of Cowboys Stadium - the location of his former neighborhood and childhood home.

"When I was in middle school there were people that started buying up houses in that area. We didn't know what it was for, we just knew there were people interested in buying it," the Fort Worth-native Jackson said.

The house he grew up in was torn down in 2004 to make way for the new stadium, which makes the matchup against the Cowboys even more of a homecoming for Jackson. "To be able to know that this is the neighborhood I grew up in when we play in that stadium, it feels like home. Home-field advantage. I played here all of my childhood."

Jackson played in Dallas with the Buffalo Bills in 2011. He still has ties to the area and admits there's some extra emotion in going back home.

"That's where I'm from. My mom and dad are still down there, both of my sisters are there, I still have a lot of friends down there. My high school is two minutes from the stadium. So you look forward to games like that. You want to put on a show and you want to win more than anything."

The Texas homecoming for the rest of his teammates feels more like business as usual. They've already experienced the first-time thrill of playing in their home state.

"When we played there in 2011 it was pretty cool." Gresham said. "I had my entire family there and we got to stay in Fort Worth and [having gone] to TCU it was a pretty cool experience to be there. For me, all the games are the same, but it is fun to play in your home state."

"No extra emotion," according to Okung. "It's a place that's very familiar to me and a lot of people who saw me growing up playing the sport will be there. There's definitely something special about going home and playing in front of that crowd."

"I have a different sense of going into Dallas this year," Thomas said. "I'm not really nervous I'm just going to go in there prepared. It's not like it used to be. I used to get all amped up because Dallas is my favorite team in the league and I always wanted to do good against them. I really don't care anymore so we'll see what happens."

Before the Seahawks and Cowboys meet on Sunday, take a throwback look at photos from every past game, including their first face-off in 1976, a shutout in 1992, and a thrilling last-minute playoff win in 2007. 

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