Before Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Richard Sherman, there was Steve Largent.
The Pro Football Hall of Famer and Seattle Seahawks icon introduced himself to a new generation of fans Thursday in Pasco. He visited the main branch of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Benton and Franklin Counties before heading to TRAC to serve as the keynote speaker for the club’s annual Dinner with Friends fundraiser.
“When I was in ninth grade, my parents were living in Albany, Ga., and I participated at a Boys & Girls Club,” Largent said. “So it’s really near and dear to my heart.”
In the afternoon, the 62-year-old former wide receiver addressed close to 100 children and staff members in the club gymnasium.
Zakory Stanger, 10, got to catch a few passes from Largent, whose speech was focused on telling kids to keep their eyes on the tip of the ball.
“That’s what you have to do in life as well — you have to have the ability to block out all the negative information, negative things in your life and focus on the positive,” Largent told reporters before the assembly.
The first time Largent threw the ball to Stanger, he successfully caught it. But the second time, he dropped it.
“Did you watch the tip?” Largent asked.
“Not very well,” Stanger said.
The third time, he caught it again.
Stanger said he knew about Largent before playing catch with the Seahawks legend.
“He was one of the old Seahawks players, and he was No. 80,” Stanger said.
What he might not have known was that Largent was selected by the Houston Oilers in the fourth round of the 1976 NFL draft. The former University of Tulsa player was traded to the expansion Seahawks that August, and he went on to spend 14 seasons with Seattle.
Largent retired after the 1989 season with then-NFL career records for receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and touchdown catches (100). He was selected for seven Pro Bowls and was a first-ballot inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1995.
After his NFL career, Largent went into politics. The Oklahoma native served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1994 to 2002.
A House hearing — even some of the hits he took on the football field — might not have been as tough as the questions the children threw at him after his speech Thursday.
“Were you very good?” one asked.
“I was OK,” Largent said.
Another child asked: “What kept you going all those years?”
Largent responded, “Wheaties,” before saying, “I really, really loved football.”
At least one child left the Boys & Girls Club gym with a lifetime memory of the NFL great.
“Steve Largent,” Stanger said, “you are the best wide receiver I have ever seen.”
Largent weighs in ...
On the Seahawks this year: I think they can be really good, but they still have two issues in my mind they have to really overcome ... who’s their running back going to be, and how consistent can they make their running game, and their offensive line.
On this political season: I think there’s a lot of negative things that you can point out and try to hope for better. But in reality, I’m thinking about my own grandkids. I have nine grandkids. I would never say anything to them about the political process this year, positive or negative. I hope they ignore it. My oldest grandchild’s about to turn 11, so it’s a little bit harder the older the kids get, but there’s just really not a lot of positive things you can point out.
On whether he misses the political arena: No, I don’t. I would say that the experience I had, being in politics for roughly eight years in my life, was a tremendous experience. Even the end of my career, which was a loss — when I lost the (Oklahoma) governor’s race by 6,500 votes, and I don’t know why it makes me feel any better saying 6,500 votes, but it was — even that experience was tremendous for me, and I don’t have any negative feelings at all about my political life.