Not for the first time have we interviewed someone for our London Series blog posts who discovered the game of American Football thanks to those Sunday afternoon games shown on Channel 4 back in the 80s. But Simon Hatcher, coach of the University of Hertfordshire Hurricanes and a Seahawks fan it was the greatest appeal of four TV options that drew him in.
“Let’s be honest back in the days of Channel 4 football there wasn’t a great deal to choose from! Pitched up against Songs of Praise I was more than willing to give this new game a go!”
And he soon became hooked but while others have signalled family connections, Madden or the first game they watched as the inspiration behind their NFL team choice, Simon’s punt towards the Seahawks was very much by chance.
“I got into watching the game and of course, being a competitive league you want to find someone to root for. The Seahawks has a player called Kenny Easley who I really liked. As a result I started to follow them but trust me they weren’t good for a long time! They were interesting to watch though but now they’re a perennial play-off team and as a result have a lot more UK based fans.”
The Seahawks will be making their first London series appearance this Autumn and with many fans we speak to the first time is something they have been very much looking forward to. Simon is a little more reserved in his judgement about how great the occasion may well be.
“I’ve seen the Seahawks play before but that was in a pre-season rather than a regular season game so it’ll be good that there is more hanging on the outcome of the game. However it is a very different atmosphere in the UK than in the US as you get fans from all 32 NFL teams and that has an impact on how the sound and feel of the game is than if it was just the two playing teams. I’m not saying it’s bad, more it’s just different.”
Simon even believes that the famous Seahawks fan noise, often referred to as the 12th man, will be loud but not to the decibel level at home, again as it will be diluted by fans from 31 other teams. But one thing that Simon was looking forward to is seeing the new Tottenham Hotspur stadium. The Seahawks against the Raiders is the first game of this year’s London series and was due to be hosted at the new stadium. However the complexity of the build has seen a delay to proceedings with no date as yet as to when any fixtures will take place there.
“I’d seen pictures of Russell Wilson visiting the stadium and it looked amazing. It’s a real shame that the Seahawks won’t get the chance to play there but maybe they’ll be back to play there in the future.”
When Simon first started following the Seahawks there wasn’t a great deal to shout about and no one would accuse him of being a glory hunter! But having won the Super Bowl in 2013, there is certainly recent history to celebrate. Does Simon think that they could be repeating their fortunes in 2019?
“One thing I really love about the NFL is how balanced it is. Truly any team can win. For the Seahawks we have a really strong culture and a great coaching staff so it’s very much about the rookies standing up and taking the opportunities and for returning players to stay well. We start off with hope.”
Despite the ups and downs over the years and the single Super Bowl win, some people may be surprised to hear that the Seahawks have had some true greats of the game play for the side. Simon will list the man who started his following for the Seahawks – Kenny Easley as one of those greats alongside Walter Jones as his favourites but includes the likes Steve Largent, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Shawn Springs and Dave Brown, as a few in a long list.
But what of the team coming to London, if you happen to catch the game who in Simon’s eyes should be the players to look out for?
“Russell Wilson is the key man on offence, and it will be interesting to see rookie RB Rashaad Penny as the Hawks like to run the ball. We wonder what Brian Schottenheimer does with the offence, but I suspect Pete Carroll will insist on being able to run the ball. On defence you have the great story of the Griffin Brothers, but the big story is the return of Ken Norton Jr as DC, teaming up again with Bobby Wagner. I hope he can help develop a brand new secondary into LOB part 2. And lastly, because we just hosted him at University of Hertfordshire American football, I will be watching Neiko Thorpe and hoping he develops into a key player.”
For Simon getting behind a team is all about learning the players and the personalities and not just the on field performances. With that in mind how would he get others to support the Seahawks?
“I wouldn’t! No seriously, I like being in the minority! We’re not one of those glamourous teams that manage to get more and more people following them each year. You need to get under the skin of the team, and once you start to see the personalities of the player it becomes addictive. Of course when your team has an exciting young quarterback and a defence that keeps games close in 99% of games then it’s easy to stay with the side! But seriously, whatever it is for you, the style of play, the players, the uniform, take time to choose that team.”
Simon’s love for the game is apparent for the time he devotes to it on a domestic level, and he cites that winning the national championship with the University of Hertfordshire as coach was one of the coolest moments for him in the sport as well of course as the Seahawks finally winning the Super Bowl. But there is a little more to the game that really stands out for Simon.
“The big wins and the championships are of course fantastic, but for me the human stories are the best part of sport. Seeing our players’ successes, and Seahawk players leading the way in the community, it shows there is more to sport than a team winning, what it means to individuals and what it allows them to make of their lives. That’s really rewarding.”
We couldn’t agree more. As for the Seahawks? Let’s see what the season, and London, brings.