Tyler Lockett, who the Seahawks signed to a multi-year contract extension prior to the start of the 2018 regular season, is coming off one of the best years ever for an NFL receiver, and his play has not only been recognized at the national level, but also here at home, where the 26-year-old wideout is up for an award from Seattle Sports Commission's 84th Annual MTRWestern Sports Star of the Year.
Lockett set career-highs in catches (57), yards (965), and touchdowns (10) this past season, and when Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson targeted the fourth-year pro, the connection produced a perfect 158.3 passer rating. It's those types of numbers and significant contributions that have Lockett nominated alongside some of Washington state's biggest sports stars from this past year.
"I always think about the analogy of a baseball player that gets a big contract and he hits a .198 or something the next year," Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said Monday when reflecting on Lockett's impressive play in 2018. "That didn't happen. He got a new contract. He got rewarded for the work that he had done and the future that holds and he just took off.
"It was a challenging year for Tyler. He was very emotional about the whole transition of getting the new contract and representing his future and all that. It was a really big deal to him. It really mattered to him that he did well, and man, did he do well. The stat that we've got to always remember, I don't even know where this stat comes from, but having the highest efficiency that you can possibly have with your quarterback, I mean I've never even heard of that stat being taken into account, but what a number.
"Look what he did last game," Carroll added of Lockett's 4-catch, 120-yard performance in Saturday's Wild Card playoff loss to the Cowboys. "He had four or five catches for 100-something yards; he did it again. Every single opportunity he showed, he came through, and he's got to be considered one of the most explosive, one of the most dynamic players in the game. That's what he looked like, and he showed it, so I'm really excited about that."
For the SSC's Male Sports Star of the Year, Lockett is competing with Ben Burr-Kirven, University of Washington Football; Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners; Phil Mack, Seattle Seawolves; Gardner Minshew II, Washington State University Football; and Coach Brian Schmetzer, Seattle Sounders FC.
Several other Seahawks players have taken home Male Sports Star of the Year honors in recent years, with Bobby Wagner winning in 2016, Michael Bennett in 2015, Earl Thomas in 2014, Russell Wilson in 2013, and Marshawn Lynch in 2012. Previous Seahawks winners include Curt Warner (1983), head coach Chuck Knox (1984), receiver Steve Largent (1985), linebacker Fredd Young (1987), fullback John L. Williams (1988), quarterback Matt Hasselbeck (2003), running back Shaun Alexander (2005), and receiver Bobby Engram (2007).
Lockett isn't the only Seahawk who's up for an award this year, however. Rookie linebacker Shaquem Griffin is one of five nominees for Sports Story of the Year. Griffin, who had his left hand amputated at age 4 due to amniotic band syndrome, was selected by Seattle in the fifth round of the 2018 draft out of UCF, where Griffin earned American Athletic Conference defensive player of the year in 2016. His story of playing football with one hand, excelling at the college level, and getting drafted to the NFL is inspiring on its own, but making it extra special is the fact Griffin joined his identical twin, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, at the Seahawks. The brothers played together in college and Shaquill went in the third round of the 2017 draft to the Seahawks. Needlessly to say, it was a dream scenario for the Griffin brothers, their family, as well as the national media, and the two players handled all the extra attention "really well," Carroll said Monday.
"The two of them gaining strength from each other made their way through it with all of the attention and the focus on the brothers and all of that," Carroll said. "They competed great, they were always here, their mentality was great every day. Every day they were consistent with their attitude and their approach to it. I think [Shaquem] Griff gave himself a chance to be a factor in a lot of ways on the team. He showed up, he played hard, he worked hard, he learned a lot playing his linebacker spot. He's come miles from where he started. I think he handled it really well, but it's hard to separate them handling it together. They're just peas in a pod, you know? I thought it was a very successful year under all of the attention."
Other nominees for SSC's Sports Story of the Year include NHL Seattle ticket sales and franchise announcement; Seattle Seawolves win MLR Championship; Seattle Storm win WNBA Championship; and Special Olympics USA Games hosted in Seattle.
Voting for each category opens at 3 p.m. PT on Monday, January 7 and runs through 11:59 p.m. PT on Friday, January 25 online at sportsstaroftheyear.org/Vote. Ticket and event details can be found right here.
Below, take a look at the full list of nominees and awards at this year's MTRWestern Sports Star of the Year.
Male Sports Star of the Year:
· Ben Burr-Kirven, University of Washington Football
· Mitch Haniger, Seattle Mariners
· Tyler Lockett, Seattle Seahawks
· Phil Mack, Seattle Seawolves
· Gardner Minshew II, Washington State University Football
· Coach Brian Schmetzer, Seattle Sounders FC
Female Sports Star of Year:
· Devon Adelman, Special Olympics USA Games Stand Up Paddle Boarding
· Sis Bates, University of Washington Softball
· Alexis Montgomery, Seattle University Basketball
· Breanna Stewart, Seattle Storm
· Jodie Taylor, Seattle Reign FC
· Morgan Weaver, Washington State University Soccer
Sports Story of the Year:
· NHL Seattle ticket sales and franchise announcement
· Seattle Seawolves win MLR Championship
· Seattle Storm win WNBA Championship
· Shaquem Griffin re-unites with twin as Seattle Seahawks draft selection
· Special Olympics USA Games hosted in Seattle
The Seahawks cleaned out their lockers and exchanged jerseys, helmets, and footballs with teammates at Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Sunday, January 6, 2019 following Seattle's Wild Card playoff loss to the Cowboys in Dallas to close out the 2018 NFL season.