Fullback Don Testerman was a key part of the Seahawks' offense during their first three seasons from 1976-78.
The number of uniforms Don Testerman wore during his football career were almost too numerous to count — four college teams, four NFL teams, even a brief sojourn in the USFL.
But there was one jersey and number that meant the most to Testerman — the 42 he wore with the Seattle Seahawks during the first three years of their existence from 1976-78.
Any time Testerman began to tell stories about his playing days, which happened often, “it always reverted back to the Seahawks,’’ said his son, Troy. “It was a very, very proud time.’’
Known as the team’s first starting fullback — he started 26 games in the 76-78 seasons — Testerman died on May 8 from complications of dementia in Greenville, S.C. He was 65.
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“Still to this day he had a big Seahawks flag in the house that he lived in before he got sick,’’ Troy Testerman said in a phone interview Friday. “When you play football you wear a lot of different numbers and he always had the number 42 associated with everything. He had a Seahawks 42 tattoo. That was always his proudest time.’’
Testerman, who also served in the Navy, played at Virginia Tech, Ferrum, Lenoir-Rhyne and Clemson before being drafted in the 10th round by the Dolphins in 1976. He was waived by both Miami and then the Eagles before the Seahawks picked him up shortly before the season began.
Testerman quickly moved into a key role as the Seahawks proved surprisingly competitive their first two seasons, and especially in 1977 when he started 13 games as Seattle finished 5-9 — at the time the best record for any second-year expansion team in NFL history.
Testerman was Seattle’s second-leading rusher that year with 459 yards and also the second-leading receiver with 219. He had 65 yards rushing and scored a touchdown on an 18-yard pass from Jim Zorn when the Seahawks shut out the Jets in New York 17-0 — the first road win in Seattle history over a non-expansion team. He also rushed for 70 yards and a touchdown when Seattle won at Kansas City 34-31 late in the season, part of a 5-5 finish to the year. He remained a regular in the offense in 1978 though he had to increasingly split time at fullback with David Sims.
Testerman was traded to Washington in March, 1979 for draft picks and finished his NFL career with five games with Miami in 1980. A couple years later he gave the fledgling USFL a shot before retiring,
Testerman spent much of the rest of his life coaching and helping non-profit organizations, helping run charity golf tournaments and working with the YMCA and Big Brother Big Sisters of America, Troy Testerman said.
Don Testerman began feeling the effects of dementia about six years ago, his son said.
The Seahawks, he said, were supportive every step of the way, especially former teammate Sam McCullum and Sandy Gregory, who has been in the organization since day one and is currently the Senior Director of Legends, Team History and Special Projects.
“They both helped me a lot to navigate this,’’ said Troy Testerman, one of Don Testerman’s two sons — another, Josh, lives in Kennewick.
“Sandy and the Seahawks were great. They called me about every quarter and just ‘hey, just wanted to see how your dad is doing.’’’
Football has been increasingly tied to dementia and Testerman played a particularly punishing position — earning lots of praise at the time for lead blocks that opened up holes for tailback Sherman Smith — at a time when the rules of the game (and how NFL training camps and practices are conducted) were much different than they are now.
But if football contributed to his illness, Don Testerman never expressed any second thoughts, his son said.
“I don’t know that he ever had any regrets,’’ Troy Testerman said. “I don’t think he would have changed anything about football or about his experience. It just was all so memorable and the stories were so great. I don’t know that he would ever want to change any of it.’’