Each year around this time, the Trufant Family Foundation holds its annual celebration at the Al Davies Boys and Girls Club on Tacoma’s Hilltop. Festivities include carnival rides, a football toss, food and games, and an autograph session with several Seattle Seahawks players.
And of course, the guest of honor is there running the show in Marcus Trufant, who cut his teeth playing football on the nearby playfield at Stanley Elementary School.
The Wilson High graduate had his day of celebration on Saturday. In its seventh year, the event is Trufant’s way of giving back to the birthplace of his football career.
“I’m home grown,” Trufant said. “I get to play for my hometown. It doesn’t really work out like that all the time. So I’m kind of a special guy in a special situation. So I feel like I’ve been blessed, and I’m just able to give back.
“It just feels good to be around people you love, and people who love you.”
The Trufant family’s support provides a boost for the Tacoma club at a time when a similar club on the Eastside may be shutting its doors soon.
“It means a lot for him to come down here,” said Sierra Raynor, branch director of the Al Davies Boys and Girls Club. “He’s an alumni of our organization and a lot of the kids here really admire him. Without the Trufant Family Foundation assisting us with our existing programs, we couldn’t do it on a daily basis.”
And this is a time when Trufant can also use the support of his family and friends. At 29 years old, Trufant is coming off perhaps his worst season as a pro. He missed the first six weeks of 2009 with a disk issue in his back, starting the season on the physically unable to perform list.
When Trufant did make it back to the field, he did not appear to have the full acceleration and explosiveness that allowed him to keep up with the fastest receivers in the league, and it showed in his play.
Even though he played in only 10 games, Trufant led the league with nine defensive penalties. And he also led the league in pass interference penalties with seven.
In one game toward the end of the season at Houston, Trufant struggled to keep up with one of the top receivers in the league in Andre Johnson, who finished with a season-high 11 catches for 193 yards and two touchdowns against Seattle.
To his credit, Trufant did not use the nagging injury as an excuse for poor play. And after an offseason spent diligently working his way back into top shape, Trufant said he’s 100 percent healthy, and that he plans on using last year’s struggles as motivation.
“I feel like I’ve got a lot to prove,” Trufant said. “And I want to come out, and I want to do better for my team. I felt like I not only let myself down, but I let my team down by coming back and not playing at the level that I know I can play at. So I’m just here to do the best for my team, and to help the team out as best as possible.”
Trufant’s father, Lloyd Trufant, said he became a sounding board for his son during last year’s trying season.
“We just supported him and tried to make sure he was healthy first,” he said. “For me, I was in the state of mind where I know that comes with the game. And I just tried to tell him to don’t get into a depressed mode. You know you want to be in there but you can’t. So just do what you’ve got to do to get yourself back to where you need to be and God will take care of you. And according to him, he’s 100 percent, so that’s good enough for me.”
The Seahawks will not make wholesale changes defensively with defensive coordinator Gus Bradley one of the few coaching holdovers from the Jim Mora regime. However, Seattle likely will play more press coverage on the outside and try to get after the quarterback more by developing a speedier, more consistent pass rush, which should help Trufant.
“The pass rush and getting to the quarterback is going to be a big part of our game,” Trufant said. “If we can mix things up for the quarterback and make him more uncomfortable, the defense will be a lot easier to play.”
Another plus is the addition of cat-quick rookie free safety Earl Thomas, who should shore up the back end of the defense.
“I think that helps out a lot when you know that somebody’s always got your back, back there,” Trufant said. “It just makes your job at corner a lot easier. You can do things, and take chances on certain stuff if you know the safety’s got your back. So that’s going to be good for us.”
Trufant, heading into his eighth season, also would like to take his family on another trip to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl. Trufant made his only Pro Bowl appearance in 2007. He’ll be 30 on Christmas Day, and is in the third year of a six-year, $50.2 million deal.
Trufant looks at guys like Green Bay cornerback Charles Woodson (33 years old) Denver’s Champ Bailey (31) and Terence Newman of the Dallas Cowboys (31) – all Pro Bowl players last season – and he understands that if he stays healthy, he still has some productive years left in the league.
“When you see guys like that (Woodson), that gives you motivation to kind of keep fighting and keep playing,” he said. “He’s making plays and playing at a high level. So it kind of makes you want to follow suit. And like I said, I’ve got something to prove and I want to come out running.”