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Josh and Lynchy’s football feast begins

This article was originally published on Josh Jenkins’ blog, which can be accessed here.

With almost 20 hours of flying in the books and some remarkable twists and turns to escape the long lines at LAX airport, we touched down in Seattle, Washington with ninety minutes to spare before kickoff.

Kickoff; America’s Team, the Dallas Cowboys in town to face the reigning world champion Seahawks and the fanatical, beyond boisterous home crowd at Century Link Field in Seattle.

With my travelling partner and fellow NFL fanatic Tom Lynch ready to roll, we hailed a cab from the airport and told him to get us to our hotel, ASAP.

As we drove into town and down off the freeway, I looked to my right and saw both the Seahawks arena and Seattle’s major league baseball team field, Safeco Field.

I initially suspected our driver had misinterpreted our instructions and had taken us straight to the game, but we soon found out that the Silvercloud Hotel was literally a stone throw from Century Link.

A view of Century Link Field from our hotel

Our room was not yet ready for us, so we raced up to the bathroom in the gym, gave ourselves a hand wash and changed from our travel clothes.

We dropped our bags in the lobby, barely concerned as to whether we would get them back. The reason being, masses of people were flocking from all parts. Every last one of them was in Seahawks’ navy and lime green.

We knew we had to be a part of the informal march to the arena and were in a particular hurry as we’d been lucky enough to organise sideline passes for pre-game.

It was my first live NFL match so I was already at fever pitch, but as we were escorted down onto the field – literally metres from the Seahawk players – I soon realised this was going to be no normal NFL experience.

For those who follow NFL, the next few lines will be interesting. For those who don’t, you may want to skip a few lines as you won’t understand what I’m talking about.

The Legion of Boom (LOB) stretched no more than ten metres in front of us and, occasionally, Pro-Bowl running back Marshawn ‘Beast Mode’ Lynch strolled past, barely getting out of a trot during the warm-ups.

The LOB (Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor & Byron Maxwell) warming up only metres in front of us

Not to be understated, Dallas carried out their warm-ups and then proceeded to jog from the field, right past the lucky few who were on the sidelines taking in the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

Maligned quarterback Tony Romo led his team into the locker room while superstar receiver Dez Bryant bobbed his head to the considerably loud pre-game music.

Billionaire owner and self-employed general manager and team president Jerry Jones also walked by like a larger than life version of the AFL’s Eddie McGuire.

As the game began, Tom and I hustled up and down the stairways looking for the best supporter gear, as we figured we will adopt the home team at each venue we attend.

Tom slipped on the Seahawks cap and we headed for our seats with much anticipation, hoping we would be amongst the die-hard Seattle fans.

Like Adelaide has adopted “the 19th Man” at Adelaide Oval, Seattle has the 12th Man (only 11 NFL players take the field at any one time) and it has truly taken on a life of its own.

I would guess up to 80 percent of fans wear Seahawk jerseys to games and whilst there is no shortage of Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Marshawn Lynch jerseys, the No.12 features most.

No player wears that number; it’s owned by the fans, and they embrace it more than anything I have seen in any sporting landscape.

As for the game, despite Seattle’s status as reigning Superbowl champions – having also won 20 of its past 22 home games – the Cowboys rode into town and stole the unlikeliest of victories.

Dallas running back DeMarco Murray led the way for the visitors and despite an unexpected loss, the home fans were still bubbly after the game as they departed for the nearest sports bar.

Tom and I made our way to a bar and quickly got talking to some locals who were intent on drowning their sorrows.

After a few Budweisers and a burger, we headed home in desperate need of a long sleep after limited sleep – or at least attempting to sleep – on our Virgin flight overseas.

No quicker than we put our heads down did the sun come up. We bounced out of bed, ready for a day’s exploration in a city we had both heard little about.

We took a monorail up to the famous Space Needle and took a walk around Key Arena – home of Aussie Lauren Jackson’s WNBA Seattle Storm and the once Seattle Supersonics of the NBA. New owners came in and moved the Sonics to Oklahoma City, leaving Seattle – a seemingly sports mad town – without an NBA team despite having many local products plying their trade around the league.

After lunch we grabbed a cab and headed for the Seahawks practice facility, nicknamed the VMAC.

During our season, ‘Hawks athletic trainer David Stricklin visited the Crows medical team and was apparently impressed with what he saw – even inviting guys to come out and see how the Superbowl champions ran things.

We got wind of the invite and a few months later, we were handing the taxi driver $20 and walking into the Seahawks’ facility.

Dave was remarkably kind with his time, considering the team had played the day before and many players were carrying niggles as well – not to mention he and his wife had just had a baby girl!

Seahawks athletic trainer David Stricklin posing with last year’s Superbowl trophy

He spent two hours showing us the ropes and personally, I will be forever grateful for having the opportunity to see inside the four walls of a team with that kind of reputation and performance record.

As we slowly wandered through the players’ locker room, the equipment room and even the underwater treadmill, QB Russ Wilson walked past us and despite being on the phone, managed to say “hey” to us. It’s something we will always remember and cherish – being the sports maniacs that we are!

We strolled past the coaches’ offices and as we passed coach Peter Carroll’s office he gave us a big wave – once again, despite being in a meeting.

The equipment room was of great interest to us and the guys who worked down there were very kind with their time, even though they were already in the midst of preparations for an upcoming trip to St. Louis to face the Rams.

Drew, an assistant equipment manager showed us everything from the gloves worn by the wide receivers to the varying cleats (footy boots) worn by the different positional players.

Tom managed to sneak a helmet on for a few seconds and we were incredibly lucky to get a ball each.

Our time at the VMAC came to an end – we gladly gave Dave a training guernsey from this season and promised we would return one day.

As we departed the ‘Hawks facility, we immediately headed for a dinner date with a 13-year NFL veteran.

Thanks to a friend back home in Adelaide who lived in Seattle, we were able to meet Jeff Jager and have dinner and a few drinks.

Numerous times both Tom and I apologised for pounding Jeff with question after question but we knew with an NFL veteran, he must surely have some stories to tell.

And we were correct.

Jeff was very generous with his time and experiences, and had us salivating as he told us about the inner-workings of playing in the NFL.

Monday Night Football was being played in the background, so it was the perfect setting to talk football with someone who had done it at the highest level.

Lynchy and I with former NFL kicker, Jeff Jager

Our Seattle stint ended with a visit to powerhouse college program, the Washington Huskies.

We met with assistant football director Conor Knowles, who gladly showed us through the Huskies’ jaw-dropping facilities before allowing us to stand on the sidelines during a full practice session.

The team – made up entirely of amateur college students – wanted for nothing, as almost 20 coaches and staff guided them through the rehearsal for their upcoming match against powerhouse school, Oregon.

All in all, our first stop on the tour of the USA was extremely fulfilling and we were incredibly lucky to have been given inside access to some elite sporting teams and organisations.

Many thanks must go to the following people;

– Dave Stricklin and the rest of the staff at the Seahawks for having us through the VMAC,

– Jeff Jaeger for sharing some of his career with us over a nice meal during Monday Night Football,

– Conor Knowles from the Huskies for allowing us access into the Washington program and to view a full practice,

– Last, and certainly not least, our Aussie/American friend Nate Evison who organised much of our Seattle stopover as well as some upcoming activities!

For more of Josh’s writing, be sure to visit his blog