BELLINGHAM - Seattle football fans haven't strained to find news about their beloved Seahawks this offseason. From sports pundits pegging Seattle as a Super Bowl favorite before the season starts to the way the Seahawks ended their season last year to the new talent brought in, heaps of fervor and excitement is following Seattle into the 2013 campaign.
Add Whatcom County to the list of areas eager to see what the Seahawks can do this year.
It's clear after a nearly 1,000-fan turnout to get autographs and pictures of Seahawks Doug Baldwin and Red Bryant Thursday, July 11, at the Best Western Lakeway Inn Hotel and a maxed out youth Gatorade Youth Training Camp Friday morning, July 12, at Civic Field that the 12th man is in full force in Whatcom County. The autograph signing and youth camp were part of the Seahawks' 12 Tour, which serves as a way for the club to reach out to communities and thank them for support.
"We want to reach out to communities that we don't usually reach out to during the regular season, and we want to get the fans excited before training camp," Seahawks Fan Development Coordinator Thomas Buren said. "We have a goal in mind to reach out to the youth, and we also reach out to military personnel."
Baldwin, a Seattle receiver, and Bryant, a defensive tackle, spent two hours Friday joining kids age 7-14 in a myriad of football drills. Two members of the Sea Gals also signed posters and taught a dance routine. Each kid received a free T-shirt and got autographs and pictures taken at the camp's conclusion. The event was free for the 230 kids in attendance.
"It's a fun time for us," Buren said. "The players love this. It's actually inspiring for them. That's what Red (Bryant) told me. He actually hasn't done the 12 Tour before. This is his first time doing this, and he was just like, 'Wow, I didn't know the fans were like this.' Its really cool. Yesterday, Bellingham fans were amazing."
The campers certainly enjoyed themselves. In addition to the 7-14 year olds, members of Meridian's football team interacted with the pros, helped with and partook in the camp.
Trojans senior-to-be Thomas Hodge got a few tips from Baldwin during receiver drills.
"They're just like normal guys," said Hodge of Baldwin and Bryant, "so when you see them on Sundays or on TV and stuff it's like they're big time, but then they are just out here with us having a good time throwing the ball around, smiling and laughing."
Bellingham was one of several tour stops the Seahawks are making. They're later heading to Vancouver and Victoria, B.C., as well as Vancouver, Wash. and Kennewick.
Even though Bellingham is one of the first stops on the trip, the intense anticipation for the new season has been blatant to the players.
"We can definitely tell the difference," said Baldwin, comparing this year's tour to years past. "We had an event last night where we had almost 1,000 people in a tiny room. It's so exciting, because we know how exciting the season is going to be. You can see it in the fans, and everybody is excited about it."
Of the six tour stops, Baldwin is slated to attend three of them. Richard Sherman and heare tied for most appearances among the Seattle roster.
"We get an opportunity to come out here and give back to the fans who give us so much on Sundays," Baldwin said, "both in the stadiums and around the country. To have the opportunity to get out here with the kids and just interact with the fans is great."
Seattle, which is coming off an 11-5 season that ended with a playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round, begins training camp July 25.
Lofty expectations have been placed on Seattle by outsiders, but Baldwin has a simple solution for overcoming the hype.
"We kind of stay away from the media as much as we can, not listen anything positive or negative that the media says," Baldwin said. "We got to focus on what we can control, and that's executing our game plans and focusing on taking it to the next step, and if we can do that it's going to be a hard time for anybody else to try to stop us."
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