As Pete Carroll is fond of saying, it’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.
The Seahawks managed to do both on Wednesday night, when they won the first and the last awards presented in the nationally televised ESPYS ceremony from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles, Calif.
The first – “Best Breakthrough Player” – went to All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. The last – “Best Team” – went to the Super Bowl XLVIII champion Seahawks. It was a fitting both-ends sweep in what has been a magical run for the Seahawks in their fourth season under Carroll.
They were the first ESPYS won in franchise history.
Quarterback Russell Wilson accepted the team award from NBA legend Julius Erving and current NBA star Carmelo Anthony. Irving wore No. 7 and Anthony wears No. 6 – and the Seahawks’ first season was in 1976. Their 43-8 romp over the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII on Feb. 2 was the first championship in franchise history.
“Just to be up here against all the teams that obviously were nominated is truly special,” said Wilson, who was joined on the stage by a dozen teammates. “There were so many great teams and we’re so grateful. We put the hard work in every day and a lot of these guys up here have been told no before.
“Obviously we’ve got to thank coach Carroll for how he leads us every day. He’s so motivating and the way he comes into work, his consistency, his approach to us is unbelievable and playing for that guy is truly special.”
Wilson also thanked general manager John Schneider, owner Paul Allen and the team’s 12th Man fans.
“At the end of the day, these players behind me, they work so hard every day,” Wilson said. “That’s why we were able to find a way to win.”
The Seahawks won the award over the NBA champion San Antonio Spurs, the World Series champion Boston Red Sox, the Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, NCAA football champion Florida State and NCAA women’s basketball champion University of Connecticut.
Sherman was named “Best Breakout Athlete” despite producing numbers and honors comparable to what he achieved in 2012 – eight interceptions and an All-Pro berth.
What earned him the ESPY this time?
Maybe it was his shoeless interception return for a touchdown to send the Seahawks’ game against the Houston Texans into overtime. Maybe it was his Immaculate Deflection to ice the NFC Championship game and launch the Seahawks toward their first Super Bowl championship. Maybe it was the fact that Sherman led the NFL in interceptions.
Or maybe it was all of the above, and more.
“L.O.B.,” Sherman said after accepting the award from Cameron Diaz, a reference to the team’s secondary that goes by the Legion of Boom.
“I appreciate the award. I appreciate being nominated. A lot of hard work, obviously, with the Legion of Boom.”
When Sherman’s name was announced, All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas reached over to congratulate him, while All-Pro strong safety Kam Chancellor did the same thing from the row behind Sherman and Thomas.
“The Seahawks, we do our thing,” Sherman said.
The other nominees were Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, New York Yankees pitcher Masahiro Tanaka and Portland Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard.
While the Seahawks were winning the Super Bowl, Sherman became a national celebrity who received shout outs from President Barack Obama during the team’s visit to the White House in May as well as at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
Sherman also got some good-natured ribbing from Drake during his opening monologue, as the Canadian rapper who visited a Seahawks practice last season offered, “Tonight a man told me that Richard Sherman is the best defensive player he’s ever seen. And that man’s name is Richard Sherman.”
Wilson was a finalist for “Best NFL Player,” but the ESPY went to Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning, who set NFL single-season records for touchdown passes and passing yards during the regular season. The other nominees were Carolina Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly and running backs Jamaal Charles of the Kansas City Chiefs and LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles.
In the “Best Coach/Manager” category, Carroll was a finalist, but the winner was Spurs coach Gregg Popovich, who led the Spurs to their fifth NBA title in the past 12 seasons. Also nominated were UConn basketball coaches Geno Auriemma (women) and Kevin Ollie (men) and Red Sox manager John Ferrell.