`After playing one season in the old World League, Michael Sinclair returned to the Seahawks and produced 73½ sacks over the next decade to bag a berth on the 35th Anniversary team.
Only one player in Seahawks history has led the NFL in sacks.
Jacob Green? No, although he did collect a franchise-record 116 sacks during his 12 seasons with the Seahawks. Patrick Kerney? No, but he did have an NFC-leading 14½ in 2007. Michael McCrary? Not him either, but you’re getting warmer. McCrary led the AFC with 13½ sacks in 1996.
That same season, Michael Sinclair had 13 sacks, and two years later he registered a league-leading and career-high 16½.
Blue and Green Dream Team
The Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team, as selected by the readers of Seahawks.com:
WR Steve Largent
LT Walter Jones
LG Steve Hutchinson
C Robbie Tobeck
RG Bryan Millard
RT Howard Ballard
TE John Carlson
WR Bobby Engram
WR Brian Blades
QB Matt Hasselbeck
RB Shaun Alexander
FB Mack Strong
DE Jacob Green
DT Joe Nash
DT Cortez Kennedy
DE Michael Sinclair
OLB Chad Brown
MLB Lofa Tatupu
ILB Fredd Young
OLB Rufus Porter
CB Marcus Trufant
CB Dave Brown
NB Shawn Springs
SS Kenny Easley
FS Eugene Robinson
K Norm Johnson
P Rick Tuten
KOR Steve Broussard
PR Nate Burleson
So it’s not surprising that Sinclair is the defensive end opposite Green on the Seahawks’ 35th Anniversary team that was selected by readers of Seahawks.com.
“Wow. I mean, wow. Wow. Really, wow,” Sinclair, now in his fourth year as the defensive line coach for the two-time defending CFL Champion Montreal Alouettes, said when informed of his unique niche in franchise history.
“That’s a testament to hard work, dedication and being a team player.”
What’s surprising – and always was – is the way Sinclair became the “overnight sensation” who produced 41.5 sacks in a three-season stretch (1996-98). He arrived in 1991 as a sixth-round draft choice out of Eastern New Mexico – a Division II talent with a lot of potential but in need of some polish when it came to rushing the passer at the professional level; not to mention the hi-top fade he was sporting that would have made Kid ’N Play’s Christopher “Kid” Reid envious.
No problem. After his rookie season, when he spent 12 weeks on the practice squad, the Seahawks loaned Sinclair to the World League. His brave new world took Sinclair all the way to Sacramento, but he finished second in the fledgling spring league with 10 sacks and the Surge won the championship.
The transformation in the kid from Beaumont, Texas, after that season of success was as startling as it was sudden.
“Mike went down there and became the guy that you had to stop,” said Eugene Robinson, the free safety on the 35th Anniversary team and a Pro Bowl selection in 1992 and ’93. “He already had a nice body – very good size, good reach. He had what it took to be potent on the edge.
“When he went to World League and came back, I was like, ‘Wow. Sinclair is a beast.’ And the real key is that he was confident. Sinclair was confident, man. That’s what I remember most – his confidence soared. He started playing at a high level, and then it’s contagious because you want more.”
Sinclair laughed before, during and after recounting his peculiar path that paved the way for potential to become production.
“I remember getting the call from the organization,” he said. “They said, ‘OK, we’ll give you $65,000 to go play in the World League. So you can develop your skills and come back and compete, because we see you as a starter.’ They didn’t even have to pay me the $65,000. I told them I’d think about it. But I was already gung-ho just to have the opportunity to play.”
And play he did; earning all-league honors to go with his double-digit sacks and the team title.
“That was a blessing,” Sinclair said. “I came back with reassured confidence. I had confidence before I left, but it was reassuring that, ‘You know what, I can compete and stay hungry and learn.’ ”
Sinclair’s roommate with the Surge? Mike Jones, the linebacker who made the game-saving tackle in the St. Louis Rams’ Super Bowl victory over the Tennessee Titans a few years later. Sinclair and Jones remain close friends.
“Going to the World League was a huge step for me, on multiple levels,” Sinclair said. “I not only got a chance to play, I played with some great guys.”
Sinclair credits former Seahawks line coach Tommy Brasher for helping him discover his inner beast and keeping him hungry. Sinclair was selected to three consecutive Pro Bowls during his three-season sack surge, and in 1998 he was voted the Steve Largent Award as the player who best exemplifies the spirit, dedication and integrity of the Seahawks.
“Tommy’s big deal was, ‘OK, where do we go from here?’ ” Sinclair said. “He told me, ‘Now that you’ve had a successful World League experience, where do we go from here? How do we build on that?’ So that was vital, having a strategy to be competitive.”
And a goal. “I even told Tommy way back then, ‘One of the things I’d like to do is lead the league in sacks,’ ” Sinclair recalled. “It didn’t happen that first year back. But once I got going, I learned and knew exactly how to be a pro.”
It’s the same drive and passion for the game that led Sinclair to coaching – after he took a 2½-year hiatus, as he called it, to “drop the kids off and pick them up.” Those kids are now 20 (Michael, Jr.), 17 (Michaela), 15 (Johnny) and 10 (Mary).
Sinclair spent two seasons coaching the D-line at West Texas A&M (2005-06) before adding another World Bowl title as line coach for the Hamburg Sea Devils in 2007. That led him to Montreal in 2008, when he continued using his own story to motivate the players he was coaching.
“I tell my guys all the time, ‘Just because you’re in the pros doesn’t mean you know how to be a pro,’ ” Sinclair said. “It takes more than talent. Your talent is what gets you there. But then everything else allows you to stay there – perseverance, passion. Those are the things that come from the heart.
“I played with a lot of passion, and I still had it in me even though I couldn’t do it physically anymore. So now I coach with a lot of passion. To me, this is an opportunity to give back to a game that gave me so much.”
Sinclair also learned another valuable lesson along his at-times meandering way.
“Expect nothing, but be grateful for everything,” he said.
Like his spot on the read-selected 35th Anniversary team.
“The last time I wore a Seahawks uniform was like 10 years ago and there have been a lot of good players on that team since then,” Sinclair said. “But I remember a reporter asking me one time, ‘How do you want to be remembered?’ I told him, ‘The fans will determine that.’ ”
And they have.