Seahawk Singing the praise of unsung heroes

Most mornings, Matt Hasselbeck is just the father of Annabelle, Mallory and Henry as he walks the halls at St. Thomas School.

Not Friday, when Hasselbeck was there in his capacity as the star quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. That, however, was not the message he shared with the 265 students who gathered for an assembly prior to school’s walk-a-thon.

Hasselbeck, also the official starter for the event, was preaching teamwork and the part of the unsung heroes in achieving success. He brought along tight end John Carlson and assistant equipment manager Derin Lazuta to help with visual aids. He even involved the school’s physical education teacher – Michael Greene, who was introduced as the Seahawks’ newest player to a chorus of laughter and squeals from the students.

“It’s all about unsung heroes,” Hasselbeck said. “They’re doing this walk-a-thon today, and it’s obviously not easy to go out and do the walk. But, there’s a lot of work that went into this event. There are parents volunteering as lap-counters, there’s an M.C. volunteer and there are volunteers who are handing out water and doing the music. There are volunteers who are doing lunch.

“So the message is, remember to say thank you to those people and remember that they’re an important part of the team.”

Just as Carlson and Lazuta help Hasselbeck do his thing every Sunday during the season.

Carlson caught seven of the 17 touchdown passes that Hasselbeck threw last season.

“I get my name in the paper for throwing a touchdown pass, but John did all the work to get open so I could throw him the ball to get that touchdown,” Hasselbeck told the students, who were decked out in blue T-shirts with 100 small squares on the back that would be used to count off the number of laps they would complete later in the day.

But Lazuta is even more unsung when it comes to the teamwork that Hasselbeck was emphasizing. With his help and some oversized props, Hasselbeck explained to the students how a regular jersey is tapered to the snug-fitting tops the players wear during games – and also how those jerseys are “stuck” to their shoulder pads with double-sided tape. That, as Carlson explained, prevents defensive players from grabbing his jersey as he is running routes.

They also showed the difference between the helmet and shoulder pads worn by just-retired left tackle Walter Jones and those used by Hasselbeck and Carlson – with Henry (pads) and Malloy (helmet) being called out of the audience to model them.

“We also tried to be educational,” Hasselbeck said after the assembly. “There are a lot of kids in here who like sports and want to go into a career when they get out of school. Equipment manager is kind of a cool, behind-the-scenes job and it’s a great career. You’ve got to be on your toes and you’ve got to be innovative and think of new creative stuff.”

The walk-a-thon, however, was old school – even at a school as new as the two-year-old facility in Medina that houses St. Thomas. The students got pledges for each lap they would complete and the funds will benefit the school’s parents’ association and the human society.

The walk-a-thon also culminated a week’s worth of speakers from other professions who also emphasized the teammate and unsung heroes in their jobs.

“This was just our small part,” Hasselbeck said.

None of the other speakers, however, were accompanied by a touchdown-producing tight end; a behind-the-scenes equipment innovator; and Blitz, the team mascot, whose part in the teamwork theme was supplying antics that punctuated the assembly with just the right amount of comic relief.