Welcome back to our Throwback Thursday blog. Each week, we spotlight one of our favorite throwback superstars. We choose these stars using a rigorous scientific process we know in-house as “Whoever Nick Feels Like Writing About This Week Unless There’s A New Star Wars Coming Out Or Something.” This week’s Throwback Thursday is the greatest Seattle Seahawk—and our personal favorite Jedi Master—of all time, Steve Largent.
He was supposed to be too short, and too slow. He wasn’t supposed to play football in the first place, and he certainly wasn’t supposed to make it to the NFL. Even if he did make it to the NFL, he absolutely, positively, indubitably was not supposed to set every receiving record in the league.
But he did anyway. His name is Steve Largent, and for a while there, he was the greatest—or at the very least, most prolific—receiver in football history. Jerry Rice would eventually break most of Largent’s records, but when it takes Jerry Rice to knock you out of first place, you’re doing something right. Largent left the game as it’s all time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089), receiving touchdowns (100), and consecutive games with a reception (177).
That’s obviously astonishing production and consistency for a fourteen year career, and doubly so for a man who was allegedly too slow and too short to even make the league. But Largent made up for what he lacked physically with an incredible mind for the game, top shelf competitiveness, ritualistic study, and a Jedi-like knack for misdirection that earned him the nickname “Yoda.”
Well, that and his zen master, spiritualistic way of looking at the game. Nearly everyone who played with Largent recalls their talks—about both the game and life in general—with reverence. His older teammates seemed to see him as a wise beyond his years up-and-comer, while his younger teammates saw him a brilliant mentor. Yoda was all things to all Seahawks.
And it was ALL Seahawks. Largent played his entire career for Seattle, and was the last remaining member of their inaugural team when he finally retired. He had a special relationship with the fans in the Emerald City, and he knew it, saying of the bond, “But I have that. Maybe I didn’t make as much money. Maybe I didn’t go to the Super Bowl. But that is something that nobody can take away from you – that special chemistry that was developed over 14 years that I was in Seattle. That’s a good thing. I like that.”
That special bond lived on and on, long after his playing days. His #80 jersey was the first the Seahawks ever retired, and their Steve Largent Award is given annually to the current Seahawk who most embodies Largent’s spirit, dedication, and integrity.
Naturally, Largent also holds basically every relevant receiving record for the franchise: receptions (819), touchdowns (100), receiving yards (13,089), receptions in a game (15), receiving yards in a season (1,287), etc. ad infinitum. He was, with apologies to Walter Jones, Russell Wilson, and Cortez Kennedy, the ultimate Seahawk.
But back to what made him so great. How did a short, “slow” receiver dominate the game the way he did? Well, for one thing, he had incredible hands, but that by itself buys you nothing. The things that made him so special were the ways he found to mitigate his perceived weaknesses. Maybe he couldn’t outsprint guys like Randy Moss, or outjump them like Megatron, but he could outthink them like Steve Largent.
Perhaps the greatest route runner of all time, Largent was both impossibly creative and mechanically precise. A lot of the routes used today were revolutionized by Largent back when, and yet a lot of the routes he ran back then still haven’t been run since. Opponents claim he’d never use the same route twice in a game, and he’d never use a route he’d run the week before, either.
Largent maximized his unique route-running versatility and skillset, too. He built up strength in his ankles so he could change direction without slowing or stopping, and he leveraged his lower center of gravity to throw defenders off-balance. He knew exactly what his strengths and weaknesses were, and didn’t try to do anything he couldn’t do.
At the risk of paraphrasing his nicknamesake (and others), he let the game flow through him. The game ran strong in him. He was one with the game, and the game was with him. He did, or did not, there was no try. Incredible, he was.