Induction ceremonies were held Thursday at CenturyLink Field.
As the three latest NFL and college members of the Pacific Northwest Football Hall of Fame talked about their careers during an induction luncheon Thursday, a theme began to emerge.
Former Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren, former Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and former UW running back Napoleon Kaufman each told a tale of a rocky introduction to Seattle before breaking through and experiencing the kind of success that will have them tied to the city’s sports history forever.
“Everytime I come here, it’s still home,’’ said Kaufman, who left UW as the school’s career-rushing leader when his career ended in 1994 and currently lives in the Bay Area, where he is a pastor and high school coach.
Kaufman, Hasselbeck and Holmgren were also joined in the 2018 Hall of Fame class by legendary Snohomish High coach Dick Armstrong, former semi-pro star Jerry Bisset and former Seahawks owner John Nordstrom. All were inducted during a luncheon at the West Club Lounge at CenturyLink Field. It is the 29th year of the PNW Hall of Fame.
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Kaufman, who attended high school in Lompoc, Calif., spoke first and recalled taking his recruiting visit to Seattle on an unusually sunny December day, only to be met with a steady torrent of rain when he arrived for good in the fall of 1991.
“They tricked me,’’ he said with a laugh, noting that he once called his mother and suggested he transfer to USC. His mom, though, told him to stick it out and Kaufman said it was the best decision of his life.
Kaufman said that age and being a coach himself at Bishop O’Dowd High have given him a new appreciation for the coach-player relationship.
He remembered times he was angry having to run the stairs at Husky Stadium for a transgression such as missing a class. He then turned to former UW coach Jim Lambright, who was in attendance, and said thanks. “I want you to know it worked, coach,’’ he said. “It worked.’’
Hasselbeck and Holmgren spoke last, each standing in the shadows of the field where they combined to lead the Seahawks to what was their first Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season.
But before they reached those heights, each recalled moments when they thought their Seattle careers might be over before they had a chance to take off.
Hasselbeck remembered being traded by Green Bay to Seattle in 2001 — Holmgren bringing him to town after having also coached him with the Packers — and being told to check in to a rather modest La Quinta Inn and thinking that it couldn’t have been right until being told that “yep, we’ve got you here for 52 nights.’’
He later recalled being hurt and benched early in his Seahawks’ career and having what were initially testy relationships with other quarterbacks on the roster such as Trent Dilfer due to the pressure of competing for the starting job while also butting heads at times with Holmgren.
“It did not start out the way I imagined it,’’ Hasselbeck said.
But by 2003 Hasselbeck had made the job his on the way to a career that will also likely one day find him in the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor, and said he often marvels at “the trajectory my career would have taken’’ if the trade had not happened. Hasselbeck ultimately played from 2001-10 for the Seahawks, leaving as the team’s career passing leader with 29,4344 yards.
Holmgren, speaking last, recalled at one point during his first few seasons — Seattle went 9-7, 6-10, 9-7 and 7-9 in his first four years — buying a place in Arizona on the assumption that he might soon be fired and would need somewhere new to live.
But as Hasselbeck came into his own in 2003, so did the Holmgren era Seahawks and he said “we never did get to that place in Arizona.’’
Both Hasselbeck and Holmgren also shared stories of their relationship, each recalling a game when Hasselbeck didn’t throw to the receiver Holmgren wanted him to on a third-down play with Holmgren responding by angrily ordering that Hasselbeck be benched as he came to the sideline. Holmgren almost as quickly rescinded the benching, but Hasselbeck recalled being asked to go to Holmgren’s office the next day, expecting to be chewed out. Instead, to what Hasselbeck laughed was his own amazement, Holmgren apologized.
“I really demanded a lot and was hard on him,’’ said Holmgren, Seattle’s coach from 1999-2008. “I will admit to that.’’
Holmgren concluded his talk with a sentiment that appeared to be shared by everybody who took the stage.
“I was the luckiest man alive,’’ he said, saying football “wasn’t work for me. We worked hard. But I enjoyed every minute of it.’’