When the Seahawks debut their 1990s era throwback uniforms on Sunday, it will be the culmination of more than a year's worth of work from people throughout the organization.
But even with so much planning involved, there was still plenty to be done in the final days leading up to the game to make sure players look and feel their best on Sunday, and to get Lumen Field looking a bit like the Kingdome thanks to the throwback markings that were painted on the field this week.
When the NFL removed the one-helmet rule back in the summer of 2021, effective for the 2022 season, it removed the biggest hurdle for the Seahawks to do a throwback uniform. By the 2022 offseason, the Seahawks were on the path towards throwbacks for this season, working with Nike on a design for the uniforms, and sending an old helmet that belonged to Cortez Kennedy to Peter Mauhar, the president of Gemini Racing in Wisconsin and the person with whom the Seahawks had already worked in the past to get the paint color right on their current helmets so that Gemini could get the color just right for the new helmets.
Uniforms began arriving this summer, meaning the Seahawks had the two most significant pieces of their throwbacks—helmets and uniforms, well ahead of this week's game against Cleveland. That does not, however, mean that this week has been business as usual for director of equipment Erik Kennedy and his staff.
"This project started a year and a half ago," Kennedy said. "The biggest part is, hopefully we remembered everything the players wear in every color that they have."
Kennedy said this while holding a royal blue handwarmer—the kind quarterbacks and other skill position players sometimes wear around their waists—that had just arrived less than a week before the game, bringing into question whether or not they would be able to get logos on them or leave them blank.
A few minutes later as assistant equipment manager Trevor Neal discussed all the different things he needs to change out this week, from gloves to the layers players might wear under their pads and jerseys, quarterback Drew Lock walked into the equipment room, inquiring about the arm sleeve he usually wears on his throwing arm, wondering if one is available in a royal blue to match the jersey. At that point, one was available, but told gameday temperatures would be in the low 50s, he instead opts for a royal blue long sleeve shirt.
In some cases, Neal explains, a player might be more comfortable in an older undershirt he has been wearing for a long time, but that exact fit and feel won't be available in a brand new royal blue shirt, in which case they can offer players different sizes and cuts to get as close as possible to the feel they're looking for.
"It's just the little things that are different from their normal gameday routine," Neal said. "It's just handling the little curveballs they're going to be throwing at us. You don't want to be telling a player no on gameday. You try to help them the best you can and make it work so they can go out there and perform."
And then there's the shoes. Players have opinions on shoes and take a lot of pride in that part of their gameday look—just listen to the banter between Bobby Wagner and DK Metcalf at the end of Wagner's Wednesday press conference.
NFL teams put in orders for shoes with Nike well ahead of the upcoming season—Kennedy and head equipment manager Austin Bui just put in the team's 2024 order next week—so any player wanting something special to match the throwbacks had to be a custom job.
Bui reached out to players earlier this month to find out if they wanted a shoe in a throwback color, or one that could be custom painted, while other players with their own shoe deals like Wagner, who represents Jordan Brand, has shoes sent to him.
The traditional look to go with the throwback uniform would be white or black cleats, and some players will do that, but plenty of others have their own ideas in mind, meaning the last couple of weeks have come with some extra work for Bui to try to meet all those wishes, and do so in a timely enough nature that players could practice in those shoes this week to break them in.
"We're doing everything to the T," Bui said. "Traditionally, if you look back, guys wore predominantly white or black cleats and gloves, but obviously times have changed, you have a lot more color options with just about everything—apparel, gloves, footwear—so it's kind of hard to gauge. Guys like to express themselves and do it up to their liking, to whatever they're comfortable with and feel good in."
Bui also is in charge of outfitting coaches and staff on the sideline, as well as practice squad and inactive players, in throwback gear for the week, yet another extra task on his and the equipment staff's plate this week.
Yet for Bui, who grew up in the area watching games with his dad, having a hand in this throwback game makes all the extra work more than worth it.
"I told EK as soon as these got approved, 'We're going to break the internet with this,'" Bui said. "It's been an awesome experience. Granted it's a lot of work and a lot of hoops to go through to get a lot of things approved. But I grew up here and since I can remember I watched every Seahawks game with my dad. This uniform touched a lot of generations. It's been fun to be a part of this."
While everyone in the equipment staff has been putting in extra work the past couple of weeks to get ready for this game, perhaps no one person has had more on his plate than assistant equipment manager Derin Lazuta, who is in charge of getting the throwback helmets ready for players to wear for the first time.
Lazuta has been involved with the throwback helmet creating from the beginning, working with Kennedy and with Gemini on the process of getting the look of the helmet just right.
"Wanted to match that paint, wanted to match the facemask color, and be as authentic as possible," he said. "We want to apply the old-school touch, as far as looks, but with the helmet technology we're using now. It's just been a long process."
And now that long process has turned into a sprint as players are in and out of the equipment room throughout the week to have Lazuta tinker with their helmets to get the fit just right.
"Helmets take a little bit of time to break in," Lazuta said. "Changing helmets midseason creates a little bit of an obstacle, but we're trying to get the guys to wear it as much as possible during the week—Wednesday, Thursday and Friday in practice—which allows them a little bit of a break-in period. We want to make sure the helmet feels as close as possible to what they're used to with the navy helmets. It's a lot of extra stuff, because you've got to make up a helmet and make it be as specific as possible for those guys."
Like Bui, Lazuta thinks the extra effort is worth it for the end product that will be on display Sunday.
"It's been fun," he said. "To take an old-school throwback look and apply it to the technology that we have now with helmets, it's a pretty cool mix of the old and the new."
A touch of the Kingdome at Lumen Field
Fans will enjoy all the amenities of a modern NFL stadium when they attend Sunday's game, but for those old enough to remember games at the Kingdome, there will be a bit of nostalgia when they head into the stadium and see the field.
On Sunday, instead of the usual modern logo and lettering in the end zone, the field will feature the old silver helmet logo in the middle of the field, and royal blue lettering in the end zone that matches that of the teams from the 90s. Even the NFL shield in the end zone will be the older version that features more stars than the current logo, which has eight.
While the stadium's fields crew is used to removing and re-painting the field throughout the year as the Seahawks and Sounders and other events call for it, this week provides a fun challenge for that group because it's something outside of their routine.
"Really it's not much different, but it's going to be new because, the default field, we know how to do that really fast and really precise," said director of fields and conversion John Wright, who estimates they'll go through about 50 gallons each of blue and silver paint this week. "The foundational part of a new image is the same, it's a dotted stencil and you connect the dots. It's nothing complex, but there's more curves because it's a helmet. And the font of the end zone is more rounded."
As they would do after a Seahawks game if there were, say, a Sounders game the following week, the Seahawks logo and end zone markings were removed on Tuesday, with the painting beginning Wednesday.
Wright said Thursday was dedicated just to the center logo, "because it's going to take more time than usual. Give them plenty of time to play with that."
Wright's crew will then get right back to work after the game, removing the paint job they worked so hard on all week so that Lumen Field can host a Sounders playoff game on Monday. Even though the turnaround is quick, switching from football to soccer is a much easier process.
"It's always easier to tear a wall down than build it," he said. "It way easier to remove paint. It's not weather dependent."
By Monday, the throwback paintjob will be scrubbed off and replaced with soccer lines, and the equipment staff will begin preparing for a traditional road look for the team's Week 9 game in Baltimore. But all the hard work will have been worth it for a throwback game that is sure to be memorable for fans young and old, and that just might, as Bui suggested, break the internet.