In no way were Seahawks fullback Will Tukuafu and defensive lineman Julius Warmsley obligated to sign autographs following their appearance at the Best Western Lakeway Inn for the annual preseason Seahawks 12-Tour that stopped in Bellingham on Saturday, July 11.
Yet, there they stood, engulfed by Seahawks fans signing autograph after autograph for more than 30 minutes before team personnel finally had to pull them away.
“That is a like a little token of our appreciation,” Tukuafu said. “I feel real fortunate that they asked me to be part of this. It’s amazing coming to see all these kids, these parents and these fans. I don’t know if the 12s really understand how much of an impact that they are for us on Sundays, and we appreciate that.”
For most, Saturday’s 12-Tour offered Bellingham fans a first chance to prepare for the new season that kicks off on the road against the Rams at 10 a.m. Sunday, Sept. 13.
While the final memory most have of last season was the infamous Russell Wilson interception as Seattle was on the cusp of winning back-to-back championships, the sting of defeat was absent amongst the 300-400 fans outside the Lakeway Inn.
Fans were treated to an hour-long, full-on Seahawks experience.
Part of the team’s drum line, Blue Thunder, performed, members of the Seagals cheerleading team completed a dance routine and Tukuafu and Warmsley both spoke to the crowd before the rally closed with a raising of the 12th man flag. Blitz, the Seahawks’ mascot, was also on hand.
Tukuafu, who joined the Seahawks last year following fullback Derrick Coleman’s injury, shared his experiences playing for the 12th man, Warmsley showed off his vocal cords by serenading the crowd with a snippet of an R&B song and the two brought some young fans on stage for a quick dance.
“It’s great, it’s awesome, it’s inspiring,” said Warmsley of being on the 12-Tour, “because to see the amount of support we have as Seahawks and an organization, it’s inspiring to see all the support and the love.”
Although Seahawks fans are regarded as the loudest in the NFL and arguably one of the most supportive groups, it’s hard to understand how they can impact a team’s performance.
But both Tukuafu and Warmsley reinforced how vital the 12th man is.
“I can’t stress enough how awesome the fans are and how they push us to want to be great,” Warmsley said. “Of course, we push ourselves, but to have that support that is behind us is invaluable.”
Lifelong fans Jerry and Bonnie Lancaster are among those devout supporters.
Jerry received autographs from both Tukuafu and Lancaster, and he’s enjoyed the ride the Seahawks have provided since they became a franchise in 1976.
“They’ve been up and down,” he said. “At least I got my bucket list filled with the Seahawks winning the Super Bowl. I’ve got to see them play in three Super Bowls, so it’s been good, and hopefully I’ll get to see them play in some more.”
That’s obviously the goal, and Warmsley said there’s plenty of motivation given how the Super Bowl against New England ended.
“I think it was a switch,” Warmsley said, “because right then and there we were like, ‘Let’s work,” and we came back stronger than ever, best OTAs. Everybody is focused. Everybody is ready and prepared. We are not faltering, and we are ready to go out there and get it done.”
While Warmsley will be looking to get on the field more in his second season as a pro, Tukuafu carved out a role last season in which he blocked for one of the NFL’s most prolific running backs..
He helped pave way for many of Marshawn Lynch’s big runs last season, and central to his and Lynch’s success is fostering a close relationship.
“I think one of the biggest things is just trust,” Tukuafu said. “You guys all know Marshawn. If he trusts you, he’ll love you, and so that is one of the things that I try to do, show him that he can trust me to play my position and know all my assignments and help him to be successful as he is and how successful he can be.”
The 12-Tour has another stop in Boise, Idaho, and then the players get a few weeks of rest before training camp opens July 31.
Reach Andrew Lang at 360-756-2862 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Sports Blog at bellinghamherald.com/sports-blog. Follow him on Twitter at @BhamSports and on Facebook at WhatcomCountySports.
First day of training camp: July 31