The eighth-year linebacker is hoping to become the second Seahawk ever to win the award.
K.J. Wright hasn’t had a lot to smile about during his toughest season in a Seahawk career that began in 2011.
He had just come off what he felt was a great preseason performance in the third game at Minnesota — the last time he was likely to play much in the preseason — when he felt a little soreness in his knee. Tests revealed enough damage for a cleanup arthroscopic procedure that it was initially thought might keep him out only a few weeks.
Wright, though, said he tried to come back too quickly, which led to a setback, which turned two weeks into six. Then, after returning and playing in three games, the knee flared up again and Wright has missed the last three games, out of town last week having a treatment that it’s hoped will solve the problem for good.
Wright didn’t talk about any of that when he met the media Thursday, though.
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“Coach (Pete) Carroll said I can’t (talk about his knee),” he said.
What Wright could talk about is something that his struggles this year make him appreciate even more — being named as the Seahawks’ nominee for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year Award, which is designed to honor a player’s charitable and community activities as well as on-field success.
Wright is being nominated for charitable activities that include his efforts to raise money to build water wells in Kenya and helping build houses for homeless in Seattle through the Sawhorse Revolution.
“It’s always been a goal of mine since I stepped in the building,” Wright said of the nomination. “I didn’t know what it was and then I found out about it and I was like, ‘man, I want to be that guy one day.’ So I’m very excited that the community voted me, the people in the organization. I’m pretty proud to represent.”
That the award is named after Payton also has some added meaning for Wright.
“Man, he and my mom (Jacqueline) went to the same college,” Wright said. “They both went to Jackson State. He’s just a legend. He’s from Mississippi I believe (Payton was born in Columbia, Miss.) so he’s always someone that I’ve watched. He’s just a legend and I didn’t know until I got here how much he did for his community and how much he meant to the city of Chicago as well.”
With 31 other nominees, winning the award won’t be easy — only one Seahawk has won it, receiver Steve Largent in 1988.
But to Wright, being involved in the community isn’t about recognition.
“I’ve been like this since I was a kid,” Wright said. “My grandma, she did a lot of stuff when we were growing up just giving back. We went into St. Jude’s Hospital, we went to visit nursing homes, we went to the middle of Mississippi to just give out clothes and video games – so we’ve always been that kind of family and that’s how I was raised.”
It’s also helped him learn more about the area he may call home.
Wright is from Olive Branch, Miss., and attended Mississippi State before being taken by Seattle in the fourth round in 2011. He had no idea then that the city might become where he would forever call home.
“Me and my wife (Natalie) talked about it,” Wright said. “It’s either going to be Seattle or Florida. She wants Florida. I said ‘we’re staying here.’ This is home, man. I really love it here. I love the people, love the mountains, the lakes, all that good stuff so I want to stay here.”