The Seahawks were in the worst possible situation.
Two minus-yardage plays and a holding penalty had left them on their own 8-yard line, needing 25 yards for a first down and at least 8 yards to prevent Rick Tuten from punting from his end zone.
The Miami defensive players were coaxing the rain-soaked crowd at Pro Player Stadium to douse the Seahawks with noise as they huddled in the end zone. In the midst of all this mayhem stood John Friesz. The Seahawks quarterback looked as if he was standing on a street corner waiting for a bus.
Unflappable. That’s Friesz, who makes his second straight start for the Seahawks in Thursday night’s game against the Chiefs in Kansas City after passing for three touchdowns in the 22-15 upset victory at Miami.
“It’s just the way I am,” Friesz said with a shrug. “I want to keep an even keel.”
No problem. On the field. In the huddle. In the locker room. With a pass-rusher about to unload on him. At a rock concert. Fishing off the dock at his off-season home on Hayden Lake in Idaho. In keeping with his name, Friesz maintains his cool in the most heated of situations. David Neville, assistant director of public relations for the San Diego Chargers, remembers being at a Van Halen concert with Friesz when he was playing with the Chargers. A security guard recognized Friesz, who was quite a distance from the stage, and suggested he move up.
Once Friesz and Neville got to the sixth row, however, they were met by another security guard who did not recognize Friesz.
“We’re standing sixth row at a Van Halen concert, so you can imagine what was going on around us,” Neville said. “Then this huge security guy starts hassling us.
“John just took over the situation. He told the guy, ‘We’re here. This is where we’re staying. This is not a problem.’ The security guy nodded and backed off,” Neville said. “To me, that shows just how cool John is.”
Stan Gelbaugh, the Seahawks’ No. 3 quarterback, laughs when told about Friesz’s icy presence when surrounded by heavy metal fans and confronted by a burly security guard.
“That’s not the John Friesz I know,” Gelbaugh said. “The John Friesz I know is scared of the local policeman in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, who they nicknamed Jason.
“When John turns onto this road where Jason is known to inhabit, John goes really slow and starts looking all over really wide-eyed. Of course Jason does have a gun. Maybe the other guy didn’t have a gun.”
At times, Friesz is so cool his demeanor could be taken for indifference. That would be a misread.
“He has fire and emotion,” center Kevin Mawae said. “But as a quarterback, it’s a plus to be able to control that. If not, it might come across as panic to the other players.”
At 6-foot-4, Friesz is only 2 inches taller than previous starter Rick Mirer, but Friesz stands more erect in the pocket and delivers the ball from a higher release point.
“It’s easier to see John,” wide receiver Mike Pritchard said. “It’s like in baseball. John provides a good catching background. As opposed to a glob of bodies and all of a sudden the ball is coming out of that, you pick the ball up sooner because you can see John.”
You’ll just never see Friesz going ballistic.