If any of the 31 head coaches in the NFL not named Pete Carroll understands the rabid love affair between the Seattle Seahawks and their fans, it’s the Philadelphia Eagles’ Doug Pederson.
Born in Bellingham in 1968 and graduating from Ferndale High School in 1986, Pederson used to be one of them. In fact, he still has family in Whatcom County, including cousin and longtime former Ferndale assistant football coach Rick Brudwick.
“As a kid growing up, I was a part of it,” Pederson said during a news conference Wednesday. “I was a part of the Kingdome. My parents took me to Seahawks games growing up. I’ve experienced it firsthand from a fan’s perspective as a kid in high school.”
He said he has fond memories of driving to Seattle with his family, which had season tickets beginning in the franchise’s first year in 1976, and of watching Seahawks legends Jim Zorn, Steve Largent and Kenny Easley play.
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Though he didn’t make it to the infamous Bo Jackson-Brian Bosworth Monday night game in 1987 – “We were on a rotating basis in our family, and I actually missed that game,” he said – he bled blue, silver and green with the 12th Man.
As a kid growing up, I was a part of it. I was a part of the Kingdome.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson
“It’s a great fan base up there,” said Pederson, who played quarterback at Louisiana-Monroe and went on to a 10-year NFL playing career from 1993 to 2004, mostly as a backup with Miami, Green Bay, Philadelphia and Cleveland.
On Sunday, the first-year head coach will lead the Eagles into the teeth of that fan base in a 1:25 p.m. game at CenturyLink Stadium.
“These fans are passionate about it, and they love it and they take pride in it,” Pederson said. “When we talk about it, they come out in droves again. It’s a great place – tough place to play, obviously. The way that stadium is built there – that little cover right there kind of right on top of you, and it’s just a great atmosphere.”
But it’s an atmosphere known to be difficult on anyone trying to steal a win from the beloved Seahawks – even those who might have cheered right alongside while they were growing up.
Sunday won’t be Pederson’s first return to the Pacific Northwest. He backed up Brett Favre in a 31-10 Green Bay win in 1996 during the Packers’ run to a title in Super Bowl XXXI and was an assistant coach with the Eagles when they played at Seattle in 2011.
In fact, Pederson played in the Kingdome once, leading unbeaten Ferndale to a state playoff game there in his senior season. Shelton won 17-16 in the Class 3A state quarterfinals.
24-6 Doug Pederson’s career record as a starting quarterback at Ferndale High School (1983-86).
But Sunday will mark the first time he’ll need to communicate with the 12th Man at full throat against him.
“Going into this stadium, this 12th Man, it’s real,” Pederson said. “Last time I was up there was with the Eagles a few years back, and it’s a loud place. Those things are the things that keep your offense from executing and staying on the field. This team (Seahawks) definitely feeds off that and tries to get you in those second-and-long, third-and-long situations. The point of emphasis this week, obviously, is to be able to handle that and minimize those (false-start) penalties.”
Pederson’s Eagles have struggled on the road this season, going 1-4. They won in Chicago in Week 2 but lost by a total of 19 points at Detroit, Washington, Dallas and New York (Giants).
The key to being successful this week, Pederson said, is for the Eagles to remain calm, regardless of how hostile the environment gets.
“I think when you’re on the road, you try to press a little bit,” Pederson said. “You try to get that quick early lead – try to take the crowd out of the game. You do some things, maybe, that are a little uncharacteristic of what you do at home. We just can’t do that. We need to stick to the game plan. We’ve got to approach it much like a home game and trust the players, trust the plan.”
It’s a great place – tough place to play, obviously.
Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson
If anybody knows how to remain calm despite his surroundings, it’s Pederson.
Brudwick recalled Pederson throwing an interception on his first pass in his first varsity game for Ferndale in 1983 and going up to console the then-sophomore.
“He looked at me and said, ‘Of course it will be all right, and I’m going to throw a lot more of ’em,’ ” Brudwick said.
Pederson’s former coach at Ferndale, Vic Randall, said he was unaware of any large groups from Whatcom County planning to make the trip to Seattle on Sunday to greet Pederson, but said: “It should be a lot of fun. We’re looking forward to seeing Doug again.”
And you can bet the 12th Man is ready to greet one of their own.
Doug Pederson’s statistics at Ferndale