With almost 20 hours of flying in the books and some remarkable twists and turns to escape the long lines at LAX airport, we touched down in Seattle, Washington with ninety minutes to spare before kickoff.
Kickoff; America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys in town to face the reigning world champion Seahawks and the fanatical, beyond boisterous home crowd at Century Link Field in Seattle.
With my travelling partner and fellow NFL fanatic Tom Lynch ready to roll, we hailed a cab from the airport and told him to get us to our hotel, ASAP.
As we drove into town and down off the freeway, I looked to my right and saw both the Seahawks arena and Seattle’s major league baseball team field, Safeco Field.
I initially suspected our driver had misinterpreted our instructions and had taken us straight to the game, but no sooner did we find out that the Silvercloud Hotel, was literally a stone throw from Century Link.
A view of Century Link Field from our hotel
Our room was not yet ready for us, so we raced up to the bathroom in the gym, gave ourselves a hand wash and changed from our travel clothes.
We dropped our bags in the lobby, barely concerned as to whether we would get them back. The reason being, masses of people were flocking from all parts.
Every last one of them was in Seahawk navy and lime green.
We knew we had to be apart of the informal march to the arena and we were especially in a hurry as we had been lucky enough to organise sideline passes for pre-game.
It was my first live NFL match so I was already at fever pitch, but as we were escorted down onto the field – literally metres from the Seahawk players – I soon realised this was going to be no normal NFL experience.
For those who follow NFL, the next few lines will be interesting. For those who don’t, you may want to skip a few lines as you won’t understand what I’m talking about.
The Legion of Boom (LOB) stretched no more than ten metres in front of us and occasionally, Pro-Bowl running back Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch strolled past, barely getting out of a trot during the warm-ups.
The LOB (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor & Byron Maxwell) warms up only metres in front of us
Not to be understated, Dallas carried out their warm-ups and then proceeded to jog from the field, right past the lucky few who were on the sidelines taking in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Maligned quarterback Tony Romo led his team into the locker room whilst superstar receiver Dez Bryant bobbed his head to the considerably loud pre-game music.
Billionaire owner and self-employed general manager and team president Jerry Jones also walked by like a larger than life version of the AFL’s Eddie McGuire.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones struts past the opposing sideline.
As the game began, Tom and I hustled up and down the stairways looking for the best supporter gear as we figured we will adopt the home team at each venue we attend.
Tom slipped on the Seahawks cap and we headed for our seats, with much anticipation, hoping we would be amongst the die-hard Seattle fans.
Like Adelaide has adopted in the AFL with their 19th Man, Seattle has the 12th Man (only 11 on the field at any one time) and it has truly taken on a life of its own.
I would guess up to 80% of fans wear Seahawk jerseys to games and whilst there is no shortage of Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Lynch jersey’s, it is the No.12 which features most.
The No.12 of the ‘Hawks 12th Man – no player wears that number – it’s owned by the fans and they embrace it more than anything I have seen in any sporting landscape.
As for the game, despite Seattle’s status as reigning Superbowl champions and having won 20 from its past 22 home games, the Cowboys rode into town and stole the most unlikely of victories.
Dallas running back DeMarco Murray led the way for the visitors and despite an unexpected loss, the home fans were still bubbly after the game as they departed for the nearest sports bar.
Tom and I made our way to a bar and quickly got talking to some locals who were intent on drowning their sorrows.
After a few Budweiser’s and a burger, we headed home in desperate need of a long sleep after limited sleep – or at least attempting to sleep – on our Virgin flight overseas.
No quicker than when we put our heads down did the sun come up and we bounced out of bed, ready for a day’s exploration in a city we had both heard little about.
We took a monorail up to the famous Space Needle and took a walk around Key Arena – home of Aussie Lauren Jackson’s WNBA Seattle Storm and the once Seattle Supersonics of the NBA.
New owners came in and moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City, leaving Seattle – a seemingly sports mad town – without an NBA team despite having many local products plying their trade around the league.
The Space Needle in downtown Seattle.
After lunch we grabbed a cab and headed for the Seahawks practice facility, nicknamed the VMAC.
During our season, ‘Hawks athletic trainer David Stricklin visited with the Crows medical team and was apparently impressed with what he saw, even inviting guys to come out and see how the Superbowl champions ran things.
We got wind of the invite and a few months later, we were handing the taxi driver $20 and walking into the ‘Hawks facility.
Dave was remarkably kind with his time, considering the team had played the day before and many players were carrying niggles as well, not to mention he and his wife only just having had a baby girl.
Seahawks athletic trainer David Stricklin posing with last year’s Superbowl trophy.
He spent two hours showing us the ropes and personally, I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to see inside the four walls of a team with that kind of reputation and performance record.
As we slowly wandered through the players locker room, the equipment room and even the underwater treadmill, QB Russ Wilson walked past us and despite being on the phone, managed to say “hey” to us.
Something we will always remember and cherish – being the sports maniacs that we are!
We strolled past the coaches offices and as we passed coach Peter Carroll’s office he gave us a big wave, once again, despite being in a meeting.
The equipment room was of great interest to us and the guys who worked down there were very kind with their time, despite already being locked in preparations for an upcoming trip to St. Louis to face the Rams.
Drew, an assistant equipment manager showed us everything from the gloves worn by the wide receivers to the varying cleats (footy boots) worn by the different positional players.
Tom managed to sneak a helmet on for a few seconds and we were incredibly lucky to each get a ball each.
Our time at the VMAC came to an end – we gladly gave Dave a training guernsey from this season and promised we would return one day.
As we departed the ‘Hawks facility, we were immediately headed for a dinner date with a 13-year NFL veteran.
Thanks to a friend back home in Adelaide who lived in Seattle, we were able to meet Jeff Jager and have dinner and a few drinks.
Numerous times both Tom and I apologised for pounding Jeff with question after question but we knew with an NFL veteran, he must surely have some stories to tell.
And we were correct.
Jeff was very generous with his time and experiences and he had us salivating as he told us some of the inner-workings of playing in the NFL.
In the background, Monday Night Football was being played so it was the perfect setting to talk football with someone who had done it at the highest level.
Lynchy and I with former NFL kicker, Jeff Jager
The indoor practice field at the VMAC – home of the Seahawks
Our Seattle stint ended with a visit to powerhouse college program, the Washington Huskies.
We met with assistant football director Conor Knowles who gladly showed us through the Huskies jaw-dropping facilities before allowing us to stand on the sidelines during a full practice session.
The team – made up entirely of amateur college students – yearned for nothing as almost 20 coaches and staff guided the team through the rehearsal for their upcoming match against powerhouse school, Oregon.
All in all, our first stop on the tour of the USA was extremely fulfilling and we were incredibly lucky to have been given inside access to some elite sporting teams and organisations.
Many thanks must go to the following people;
Dave Stricklin and the rest of the staff at the Seahawks for having us through the VMAC.
Jeff Jaeger for sharing some of his career with us over a nice meal during Monday Night Football.
Conor Knowles from the Huskies for allowing us access into the Washington program and to view a full practice.
Lastly and certainly not least, our Aussie/American friend Nate Evison who organised much of our Seattle stopover as well as some upcoming activities!
A photo we were very fortunate to take – the LOB lockers