The hoodie? Seattle Seahawks navy blue and neon green, not Trojans maroon and gold.
The enthusiasm? All Pete Carroll.
Even the weather – sunny and seasonably cool, with a breeze blowing off Lake Washington – had this Southern California transplant pumped.
“What was everyone complaining about the weather for?” Carroll said, squinting into the sun and laughing.
Tuesday brought a minicamp like none other to Seattle. The 58-year-old coach who restored a dynasty at USC led his first NFL practice since the end of the 1999 season. For 90 fast-paced minutes, Carroll smiled and clapped and slapped backs.
His new players stretched as their coach walked and chatted among them. They ran through pads laid out on the field. They ran from drill to drill. All of it was just like the Washington Huskies do across the lake under the direction of Carroll protege Steve Sarkisian.
Which is to say, just like USC does.
The Seahawks have gone from four consecutive NFC West titles to 9-23 since their last playoff game in January 2008. They have so many holes to fill in next week’s draft, Carroll said with a wry smile, “we’ve got issues in a lot of areas.”
“Yeah, I am pumped up about it. This is a chance of a lifetime, for us, for our staff, for our team,” the former coach of the New York Jets (1994) and New England Patriots (97-99) said. “This is a tremendous day. I even took a couple minutes out here to look around and to recognize this day.”
This launch point was so important for Carroll, he had his assistants out on the field the day before to practice the first practice.
The only coach not in team workout shorts or sweat pants had a clear mission statement for his staff and players on Day One.
“We’re trying to do things better than it’s ever been done before,” Carroll said. “We’re trying to be the best staff, the best team, (to go on) the best run we can put the Seahawks on that they’ve ever seen. That starts today. Where that ends up? I don’t know. But that’s what we’re out here to do. It starts out with having the best first practice that they’ve ever seen.”
His players are just trying to keep up with Carroll’s USC system already rolling in Seattle.
After three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck fired a sharp pass for a completion over the middle, Carroll thrust his fist toward him for a bump. The 34-year-old Hasselbeck hesitated and offered an open right hand instead to begin an awkward, half-bump, half-handshake.
Mike Williams is a former Trojans wide receiver who almost ballooned his way out of the NFL but is now slimmed down to 235 pounds. He’s getting a tryout with his old college coach. He made the mistake of walking between drills as he talked to Seahawks veteran receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh.
“Mike Williams, c’mon!” Carroll yelled. “What are you walking out here for?”
“More excited. A lot more excited,” Williams said. “My feeling is, not to speak for Coach Carroll, is that he’s excited to move on to a new challenge. USC was a challenge he had conquered a few years ago.”
Carroll is surrounding himself with many familiar faces while on his new turf.
Eight of his assistants and training staffers were with him at USC, including new offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates. Six former Trojan players are in this camp, from three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Lofa Tatupu through Williams and two other USC free agents who are getting tryouts.
Former Trojans defensive end Lawrence Jackson, Seattle’s No. 1 draft choice in 2008, said those who are not Men of Troy better get on board.
“His resume obviously speaks for itself. His energy obviously speaks for itself,” Jackson said. “All we have to do is buy in. Hey, we’re going in the right direction. Get those old Seahawks out of your mind. It’s a new day.”
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