RENTON — Though he grew up in Boston, 3,000 miles and three time zones away from Seattle, Matt Hasselbeck always felt an odd connection to the Seahawks.
“They were my favorite uniforms when I was a kid,’’ Hasselbeck remembered. “I grew up with NFL helmet wallpaper or curtains, and they were my favorite color scheme and uniform.’’
His father Don, a nine-year NFL veteran as a tight end, got both the first reception and touchdown of his career against the Seahawks in 1977.
And as a kid, Hasselbeck collected football cards and sent dozens to players hoping to get them autographed and returned.
He remembers only two responding — longtime Colts punter Rohn Stark, who ended his career playing four games for the Seahawks in 1997, and legendary Seattle receiver Steve Largent.
“I had sent football cards to Steve Largent, and I got those cards back autographed, legibly, right away,’’ Hasselbeck said. “It made such an impact on me.’’
So maybe Monday night — when Hasselbeck is officially inducted into the Seahawks’ Ring of Honor, his name forever linked with Largent’s and the other greats in the team’s history — was somehow his destiny.
Hasselbeck becomes the 13th person inducted into the Ring of Honor, and the 10th player, and will be joined next week by Mike Holmgren, the coach who brought him to Seattle in 2001 via a trade with the Green Bay Packers.
During a Zoom session with media this week, Hasselbeck recalled that one of the first things he did when he became a Seahawk was try to learn as much as he could about those who were in the Ring of Honor. At that time there were six.
“I think for anybody that played in Seattle, it’s one of the first things you notice when you walk into the stadium — you see the names in the Ring of Honor,’’ he said. “And for me in particular, I knew some of the names but didn’t know all of the names, or enough about all of the names, so I made it a point to learn what I could right away. There was just something special about what each one of those people meant to the Seattle Seahawks and the city at the time.’’
At that time, though, Hasselbeck could hardly have imagined that 20 years later his name would join the list.
He was a 26-year-old who had thrown just 29 passes when he was acquired by Holmgren, who had coached him for one season in Green Bay and expected him to become the foundation of what he was attempting to build in Seattle.
Hasselbeck threw just seven touchdowns and had eight interceptions in his first season as Seattle’s starter in 2001 with the Seahawks going just 5-7 in his 12 starts. He was benched at times in favor of veteran Trent Dilfer and admitted it took a while to adjust to Holmgren’s hard coaching.
He joked in response to a question Friday about Holmgren having unwavering faith in him, saying “that unwavering faith is not how I would have termed it at different points of the journey.’’
Holmgren has never denied he expected a lot out of Hasselbeck.
“I really demanded a lot and was hard on him,’’ Holmgren said in 2018. “I will admit to that.’’
That Holmgren is going into the Ring next Sunday means quarterback and coach will fittingly remain inextricably linked.
“It meant a lot and to go through that journey with him where it wasn’t always easy, but we weathered the storms, stayed the course and bought into his message, and we were able to do some special things and set a foundation for future success,’’ Hasselbeck said.
It truly began to click for Hasselbeck in 2003 when he started all 16 games and led Seattle to a 10-6 record and made the Pro Bowl after throwing 26 touchdown passes.
That was the start of a run of five straight playoff appearances that included four straight NFC West titles from 2004 and the team’s first Super Bowl appearance following the 2005 season.
Seattle’s 13-3 record in 2005 remains tied as the best in team history with the 2013 squad that won the Super Bowl.
“At that moment, it felt like we could really do anything,’’ Hasselbeck said of that season. “We just had to then actually go do it, which made losing in the Super Bowl that much harder. We knew we were capable of it, we just didn’t get it done.”
Hasselbeck played in Seattle through the 2010 season, getting one last highlight in what was Pete Carroll’s first season as Seahawks coach by leading Seattle to a win over defending champion New Orleans in a wild-card playoff game (it’s no coincidence he goes into the Ring on a night Seattle plays the Saints).
That game gave Hasselbeck one of his favorite mementos — a picture with his three children walking off the field after what turned out to be his last home game, holding son Henry on his shoulders and daughters Annabelle and Mallory by his side, with Mallory carrying the ball from the Beast Quake run.
Hasselbeck, now an analyst for ESPN, became a free agent after that season and signed with Tennessee, playing two seasons there before finishing with three more with the Colts, retiring at the age of 40, leaving Seattle as the career leader in just about every passing category (many of which he’s since seen Russell Wilson surpass).
As Hasselbeck noted, his career ran the gamut of the Seahawks experience as he arrived at a time when the Mariners were in the midst of their 116-win season and UW was coming off having won the Rose Bowl and the Sonics were still in town and a consistent playoff contender, leaving the Seahawks fighting for attention. By the time he left, the Seahawks were in the middle of a streak of 149 consecutive sellouts that began in 2003 and continues to this day.
“There’s so many that I feel like I could write a book about all of them,’’ he said of his favorite memories. “The funny thing is that I remember sort of the tougher times better than I remember some of the great moments. I don’t exactly know why that is, but I do remember everything from Eastern Washington, having training camp in Cheney, being at Kirkland in that stadium, playing in Husky Stadium. … Never in my wildest dreams would I have envisioned us creating the best home-field advantage in all of sports because it really wasn’t that when I first got there.’’
He becomes the second player from the Holmgren era to join the Ring — left tackle Walter Jones was the first in 2014. But Hasselbeck hopes he won’t be the last.
“I think that the danger of this would be to think of this as an individual award,’’ Hasselbeck said. “I don’t know who of my teammates will or won’t ever get in, but I do think that me going in is sort of symbolic of all of those great teammates I had. It’s not just teammates, there are way more people than just teammates that contributed to our success.”
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