SEATTLE — One silver lining to having no sports is that you don’t need an excuse to call someone. Memory lane is bumper-to-bumper right now, and people want to hear from the all-time greats.
So I dialed up Steve Largent, the Hall of Fame receiver who played all 14 years of his NFL career with the Seahawks.
How has life been for you amid the coronavirus shutdown? I asked him.
“It hasn’t been that substantially different for me. I am basically retired now,” said Largent, who lives in Tulsa, Okla., where he was born 65 years ago. “It’s not being able to see my grandkids or my children as much that’s been hard.”
Largent is optimistic that we’ll be on the other side of this pandemic soon and hopes sports will make a speedy comeback. He said he thought had weened himself off television sports until they were taken from him completely, and that he’s “not as weened” as he thought.
But 40 years ago, it was Largent who would lure eyeballs to the TV screen as he wowed during his record-setting career. He said the highlight of his time with the Seahawks came in the 1983 season, when they beat the Dolphins to reach the AFC Championship Game.
That was a team of destiny, Largent said — a coaching masterpiece by the late Chuck Knox.
Which led to a more somber question.
Knox, Jack Patera and Mike McCormack, basically everyone who coached you with the Seahawks, have all died in the past few years. How have you coped with that?
“They were all great men and great coaches and just good people, and I can’t believe they’re gone,” said Largent, a seven-time Pro Bowler who tallied 901 receptions, 13,089 receiving yards and 100 touchdowns in Seattle. “Then again, I can’t believe I’m 65 years old.”
The Seahawks fully embrace Largent now, but he said that wasn’t always the case. Steve would seldom return to Seattle from Tulsa after retiring following the 1989 season because, well, the organization didn’t call.
Largent didn’t stew about it — he was just a little perplexed. Then Pete Carroll got hired as coach in 2010, and suddenly Largent was flooded with texts and phone calls from the team.
“You feel appreciated,” Largent said. “I think that’s all former players really want, is to feel appreciated.”
Largent was definitely appreciated by former Seahawks receiver Doug Baldwin, who spent a couple seasons picking his brain.
And then there was 2019 rookie sensation DK Metcalf, who wore a Largent jersey to the Seahawks’ opener last season because “he’s the GOAT receiver in Seattle, and I’m trying to be just like him.”
When I asked Largent for his thoughts on Metcalf, he mentioned an even bigger GOAT.
“I hope that his track record will look exactly like Jerry Rice’s — I know his first year has been,” said Largent. “I think DK Metcalf has the opportunity to do the same type of thing. He’s bigger, stronger and runs better than Jerry. … He’s a good wide receiver. Whether he’ll be a great wide receiver, that’s yet to be seen.”
Largent said that, due to the emphasis on passing the ball, he enjoys today’s NFL more than when he played. He added that he would have thrived in the modern game.
As for his relationship with former Seahawks quarterback Jim Zorn, his teammate for nine years? Good as ever.
“We talk once a week. Maybe more than that,” Largent said. “The real beauty of the relationship is that our wives are really close. Most the time we call, Jim and Joy are both on the phone and we’re talking about whatever.”
Largent thinks all the concussions he endured over the years might be affecting him cognitively, although he doesn’t know for sure. They certainly didn’t prevent him from becoming a successful politician, as he represented Oklahoma’s first district in the U.S. House of Representatives as a Republican from 1994-2002.
He was also mere 7,000 votes shy of winning the 2002 gubernatorial election in the Sooner State.
So does he wish he were still in office? Not even a little bit.
“I would not want to be in politics today, and I’ve said that so many times till I’m blue in the face,” said Largent, adding that it’s sad that politics have kept our country from coming together amid this pandemic. “When I ran for office, I didn’t try to develop some kind of lengthy resume or something like that. I went back there to try and get things done. I didn’t care if you were a Democrat or Republican, but you wanted to try and make things happen, we would work to make things happen.
“That whole spirit has been lost by the politics that we’ve seen lately on both sides.”
These days, life is pretty calm for Largent. He is on few for-profit boards such as Young Life, Mission of Hope and Athletes in Action. He’ll do the occasional autograph show, and recently took a trip to Israel with his pastor.
But he is generally out of the spotlight, even when he returns to the Emerald City.
“There aren’t a lot of people who recognize me in Seattle. I’m just an average guy downtown,” Largent said. “I don’t complain.”
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