Everybody, welcome back to Area 29. I know I haven’t checked in for a little while. I’ve definitely been having some fun, enjoying life with my family and friends. But I’ve also approached this offseason with the same mentality I had the whole year.
I want to keep raising my game.
One thing I’ve been doing is just keep my body moving. As you get older, your body starts to react differently to different things, so I definitely want to keep my motor running and maintain that grinding mentality I had throughout the season. Keeping that up will put me in the best position for OTAs and training camp.
That’s why I started working out at my home in Orange, Texas, just a week after the Super Bowl. I wanted to maintain a rhythm. One way I’ve been able to do that is by keeping a routine. I’m trying to keep my day-to-day similar to what it is during the season. I’m getting up at the same time in the morning as I would if I had meetings. I’m taking my lunch break the same time as I would at the facility.
I’ve also been spending a lot of time watching film from last season. I’m very close with the video equipment guys, and Brad — who kind of runs that whole department — set me up with all the game tape on my personal computer. I brought that down to Texas with me, set up a little office in my backroom, and went through everything from the first game against Carolina through the Super Bowl. It was crazy to see the progression that everybody on the team made.
Still, there is a long way for me to go. I know if I can maximize this offseason, I can be even better next year. Everything I need to work on is on the tape that I put out last season. It doesn’t even have to be a game-breaking play or a negative play in the coaches’ book. Maybe it’s something where I just felt like I was a tad bit out of position when I came out of my break.
So I’ve been taking what I see on film, and working on it. I didn’t hire special trainers or gurus who work specifically with professional athletes. Instead, I’ve been working with a few of my high school teammates: Andre Bevil, who was the quarterback at West Orange Stark when I went there and now coaches at Beaumont Central, and Jacoby Franks, who was a receiver at Stark and went on to Texas Tech.
Andre throws passes and Jacoby runs routes while I put myself in different spots at the safety position: in the middle of the field, in man-to-man coverage or in the hook. We run through it like we would in a game. It’s been really beneficial for me.
We also do some weight room work together. The thing I like about working out with those guys is that it’s comfortable. I’ve been friends with them since our Pop Warner days. We get to just go in there, talk, laugh, have fun and put in work together.
I always go back to Orange after the season. It’s something I’ve done every year since I left for college. It helps put things into perspective.
You remember your roots. You pass by those baseball and football fields that used to look so big, but now look so small. You remember those moments when you were a little kid, and how good it felt just to be out there with your dad throwing you the ball in whatever sport you were playing. My dad had me and my brother backpedaling at six and seven years old for football. He also made us a makeshift batting cage so that we could practice hitting for baseball. We didn’t have a lot of money, but we made it work no matter what.
My brother and I did everything together. We still do. That’s probably why he’s my best friend. We’ve been the same since I was taking his bottle when we were babies. He’s been there every step of the way with me. This past season, he was at every practice, every game. We have a routine we do on the sideline where we clap three times, and give each other a salute. It’s a sign of mutual respect. I know I wouldn’t be this far without him, and vice versa.
As the older brother, you know your little brother looks up to you, so you definitely want to be the role model in his life. Like all brothers, we fight. but the good thing about our relationship is that if we have an argument, we brush it off. That’s something that’s been with me through my upbringing. My mom and dad always told me, “Take care of your little brother.”
I will always do that.
I’m very proud of him too. He’s the first person in our family to graduate college. I haven’t even been able to do that yet. He has the same mentality as I do — whatever we put our minds to, we’re going to get it done. He did that with his degree.
He’s also a great, caring person and a humble guy. He’s quiet like I am, but he’s smarter than me. I remember when we were coming up, my mom and dad used to get mad if he brought home a ‘B’ in school. He’s gifted, and I know what he’s capable of.
LIFE IN ORANGE
I’ve had a lot of great experiences in Orange over the last month.
I love going back to my old high school, West Orange Stark, because it’s the place that made me a man, allowed me to grow as a student-athlete and helped me get to college. I take everything as it relates to West Orange Stark sports seriously. That’s why, a couple weeks back, I posted on my Instagram that I was courtside at a basketball game. (The refs had to tell me to tone it down a little bit because I was courtside, maybe being a little too passionate about West Orange Stark sports.) My passion for sports doesn’t stop with football. No matter what it is — baseball, basketball, football — I’m going to be at the game.
In addition to spending a lot of time around my high school, I visited the Sheriff’s Department, and they honored me with a sheriff’s patch. I told them how much I appreciated everything they do for our town. I also wanted them to know that I’m all about change. Change can come to the slums and projects of Orange, to the people who don’t have anything. That was another reason I wanted to visit the Sheriff’s Department — to start bridging the gap between the poor in our community, and everyone else. So while I was there, I visited the jail, too.
Orange is not that big, but where I come from, we’re kind of misunderstood in some ways. We’re not given the same opportunities as everybody else. That’s not to make any excuses for anybody, but you are what your environment is. I kind of defied it because of my upbringing, but not everybody in Orange had the parents in their life that I did growing up. When I was at the jailhouse, I saw people who I’d seen around Orange when I was growing up, and told them, “Man, you can do better than this.” There was one guy who was a great musician, and had our whole church rocking when I was younger. I told him, “You need to get back to the music.”
One of the ultimate highlights of being back home was a parade the town held to honor me. Obviously, it wasn’t as big a parade as we had in Seattle, but it was just as special because it was just my hometown, saluting me. I wanted to just soak in that moment. I was happy and grateful, and for everyone to come out in their Seahawks Earl Thomas 29 jerseys. That’s Cowboys country, so you never really see another team’s colors take over like that. But the Seahawks have definitely taken over Orange.
The crazy thing was that I dreamed a long time ago that I would have a parade in Orange. I had no idea it was going to come from the Super Bowl. But there it was. And just to see everybody come out and have it be all love, nobody fighting, it was amazing. It was cool to see the familiar faces in the crowd, and also the little kids that I’m affecting in a positive way, and hopefully, giving a path to follow.
A lot of people in Orange that I grew up with are still there, and a lot of those people helped me out along the way. Teachers, coaches, different people that worked at my high school — even the people who didn’t make it, who were on the streets, they helped me. I remember everybody. They had a great impact on my life. It takes a village to raise a kid, no matter who you are. I’m a prime example of that. My mom and dad had a great say in the man who I’ve become, but there were a lot of other people who helped me get to this point. Knowing what I know now, I can see that impacting someone else’s life in a positive way is one of the greatest things you can do with your life.
I’m just one person, but God is powerful. For him to put me on this platform and allow me to bring everyone together — that was my most thrilling experience since the Super Bowl. We’re a small town, but that doesn’t decrease our worth and our impact. Anybody can have an impact. You just need to have the heart and the determination.
I want to have an impact and leave my mark. It’s cool that when people think about Orange, Texas, they think about me. Being that type of representative of my hometown means everything.
I want to do everything in my power to help keep Orange strong, and my name strong.