Using some tunnel-vision advice from his in-laws, Leon Washington returned kickoffs from one end of Qwest Field to the other – twice – to spark the Seahawks’ upset of the Chargers.
Rocky Balboa can have the “Eye of the Tiger.” For Leon Washington, his record-setting performance against the San Diego Chargers on Sunday was all about the “Eye of the Dove.”
Confused? So was Washington, when his father-in-law and mother-in-law laid that analogy on him prior to the game, before explained it to him after Washington had returned kickoffs 101 and 99 yards for touchdowns to spark the Seahawks’ 27-20 upset.
“They told me to envision a dove eye – d-o-v-e, e-y-e,” Washington said Monday. “A dove pretty much has tunnel vision. Where he wants to go, he sees it and he gets there.
“So I was standing there like, ‘Damn, what does it mean?’ He told me after the game. So that was pretty cool.”
So was Washington. During the game. After the game. And again on a very busy Monday, which included interviews with the NFL Network, national and local radio stations and reporters who cover the team.
Then there were the text messages that started filling his phone right after the game.
“A lot from the Jets,” said Washington, who was acquired in April in a draft-day trade with the Jets – the team that selected him in the fourth round of the 2006 draft; the team he played for when voted the AFC Pro Bowl kick returner in 2008; the team that deemed he was expendable.
“A lot of support from them, even before the game.”
What Washington accomplished against the Chargers definitely is worth repeating:
He became the 10th player in NFL history – the 91-year history of the NFL – to run back two kickoffs for touchdown in a game. He joined Timmy Brown (1966), Travis Williams (1967), Ron Brown (1985), Tyrone Hughes (1994), Chad Morton (2002), Devin Hester (2006), Andre Davis (2007), Ted Ginn (2009) and Josh Cribbs (2009).
He now has six in his career, which ranks second all-time to Cribbs’ eight. The others with six: Ollie Matson, Gale Sayers, Williams, Mel Gray and Dante Hall.
He is the first player in the 35-year history of the Seahawks to have two kickoff returns for TDs – in a career, let alone a game.
His returns were the two longest in franchise history.
His 253 return yards – he also had a 33-yarder that almost went for a third score – erased the club record of 231 set by Maurice Morris in 2002.
His 63.3-yard average on four returns obliterated the club record of 42.76 set by Charlie Rogers in 2000.
Not bad for a guy who has a steel rod in his right leg, the result of surgery to repair the compound fracture he got last October in his final game for the Jets.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll admitted Monday that he was hoping the trade for Washington would work out, but there was no way to be certain because he was coming off such a serious injury.
Washington, however, never doubted he would return.
“No doubt at all,” he said. “I’m a blessed enough athlete to play football. I’ve been playing football ever since I can remember. So I know how to play football. It basically comes down to your body feels good, you work hard, you prepare well and eventually good things are going to happen.”
It was the eventually part of his rehab that occasionally got to Washington.
“Mentally, it was putting myself through that grind every day,” he said when asked the toughest part of his lengthy recovery period. “Every day knowing that I had to come in and bring it my all. You know, don’t take any days off.
“And kind of the surgery, a little bit. Not knowing what to expect. And then getting traded from New York.”
But that was then, and Sunday was definitely here and now – not only for Washington, but everyone involved with the Seahawks’ special teams. From special teams coach Brian Schneider; to his assistant, Jeff Ulbrich, a former special teams captain for the San Francisco 49ers; to those who blocked for him on those electrifying returns.
Cameron Morrah took out two would-be tacklers on one return. Michael Robinson also had a big block on another return. The wedge of Kentwan Balmer and Mike Gibson helped spring him three times.
“Everybody did their thing,” Washington said.
So did Washington, using the “Eye of the Dove” approach.