Matt Hasselbeck is going to be missed around here. Most of us who do this job are pretty good about maintaining objectivity in the course of work, but a lot of us in the media are going to be sad to see Hasselbeck depart. He was a first-class guy from Day One.
He was also one of the toughest guys they’ve had. In the locker room after games, his body often was absolutely tattooed with bruises. You’d ask him about something and he’d say he hadn’t noticed. It might come out after the season that it was a broken rib or something.
He played like that all the time. And that was the heart of his leadership of the Seahawks. Teammates surely noticed it when he came back on the field at Arizona last season and finished the second half with a broken wrist.
A couple extraordinarily gutsy plays stand out. A couple years ago at Arizona when Darrell Jackson fumbled the ball 20 yards downfield at a crucial point in the game, the Seahawk who made the recovery was Hasselbeck. He’d gone racing down the field to help and was there to dive into the pile and get the ball. Offensive coordinator Gil Haskell was mad at him after the game because it seemed so reckless for a quarterback, but then he admitted that he’d never seen another quarterback make that play, and that Matt was the “toughest guy on the team.”
In another game, he saw the ballcarrier cut back and Hasselbeck not only led him downfield, but chopped two defenders with a cross-body block.
He was the master of the press conference, mixing humor with serious and studied responses. Some athletes come off that way in front of the cameras but actually can be pretty surly or demeaning, or are rascals in the community. Hasselbeck seemed an even better guy when the cameras were put away. That carried over into the public, too. I don’t know how many times fans have come up with stories about their kids meeting Matt at a restaurant or store or something and that he made the kids’ day by being so generous with his time.
One year during the playoffs, he came into the media room at the old headquarters and was introducing somebody around. He accurately introduced every reporter in there – their names and media affiliation. A national magazine writer there that day was stunned and suggested he was the only quarterback in the league who could pull something like that off. Not that he spent a lot of time reading his coverage, but that he had respect for the job and the people who do it. Very impressive.
He played some stinkers in recent seasons as the team suffered across the board, but he was admirable in holding himself accountable, never blaming teammates, and standing in there to take the heat whether it was his fault or not.
A nice image of the guy was the photo taken of him coming off the field after the playoff win over New Orleans. He’d just had a terrific game, and he had his son on his shoulders. That was his last game for the Seahawks at Qwest Field, and it was a great way for a good man to go out.