NEWARK, N.J. — Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant will start together Sunday on Seattle’s defensive line, doing what they can to help the Seahawks win their first Super Bowl title.
When they get back home, maybe they’ll get around to cleaning out Mebane’s closet, where a few clothes of Bryant’s remain from when he stayed at Mebane’s house during his rookie year.
It’s a time of their lives they still talk about, a reminder of more humble times for themselves and the Seahawks.
Mebane and Brant are the two longest-tenured Seahawks, and two of only four who remain from the team coach Pete Carroll inherited in 2010. They understand more than anyone the long road the team has taken to get here.
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Mebane, who was a rookie in 2007, is the only player left from the last of former coach Mike Holmgren’s playoff teams.
Bryant was a fourth-round draft pick in 2008, just in time to see the team begin to crater in Holm-gren’s final year. Punter Jon Ryan signed on as a free agent a game into the 2008 season, and center Max Unger was acquired as a second-round pick in 2009, Jim Mora’s only season as Seattle’s coach.
Everyone else on the Seattle roster was acquired since Carroll took over after the 2009 season.
“I’ve seen way more people leave than stay,’’ Bryant said Tuesday. “I’ve seen a lot of my friends go.’’
Any illusions about the business that is the NFL evaporated for Bryant when he showed up for Seattle’s offseason program in 2008. The bed in the hotel room he’d been assigned didn’t quite fit his 6-foot-4, 323-pound frame, which Bryant happened to mention one day to Mebane.
“He’s a big dude and he was falling out of his bed,’’ Mebane recalled with a laugh Tuesday. “I told Red — I wasn’t married at the time — I’ve got an extra room, you can stay in my house. We started hanging out and we’ve been cool ever since.’’
Bryant remembers getting more than just a place to sleep from Mebane.
“He definitely used to keep me encouraged,’’ Bryant said. “And I needed that at that point in my career because I (could have gone) either way. I didn’t know which way I’d end up.’’
Bryant eventually ended up on the desired path, thriving after being moved to end in 2010. He eventually signed a five-year contract worth $35 million, $14.5 million guaranteed, and a place of his own.
But Mebane insists with a laugh that his buddy Bryant never really left.
“He’s actually still got some clothes at my house,’’ said Mebane, whose 101 starts in his seven seasons is more than any other current Seahawk.
Not for long, though.
“It’s going to be my daughter’s room, and it’s got all his jerseys and stuff in it,” said Mebane, whose wife is due in April. “I told him, ‘If you don’t get that stuff out of here, I’m going to give it away.’ ”
Neither could have expected that the clothes would remain there six years later, when Seattle went 4-12 in Holmgren’s final year in 2008 as Matt Hasselbeck was injured and veterans from the 2005 Super Bowl team began to show their age. After Mora’s firing following a 5-11 season, Carroll brought in change with stunning swiftness.
Carroll and general manager John Schneider began tearing apart and then rebuilding the team, making 284 roster moves in 2010 alone.
Mebane and Bryant remember it as a dizzying time when something like the Super Bowl seemed as remote as Marshawn Lynch hosting a talk show.
“I’d be lying if I ever visualized this, because my first three years, I had three different coaches,’’ Bryant said as he looked around at the thousands of media on the floor of The Prudential Center. “But when coach Carroll came in, he really gave everybody the opportunity in terms of understanding what he wanted from the program. And from that day forward he did everything he could to get us to this moment.”
Carroll says that just four players remain “is a statement that we had our sights set on changing the program, changing the culture and making it what it has become. But I am grateful for those guys that they stuck with us and followed the message and have been really good ambassadors throughout.’’
Mebane says that when Carroll arrived he wasn’t always sure there was a light at the end of the tunnel.
The glare of all the TV cameras Tuesday was proof that there was.
“At the time, none of us knew what it was going to be like or what direction they were going to go,’’ Mebane said. “But just seeing how it is now, it’s awesome. It’s a blessing to see.’’
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699
On Twitter @bcondotta