Williams, Washington, Heaps and Taylor talk
KIRKLAND, Wash. - The Seattle Seahawks have been selected to participate in the 2008 National Football League's 7-on-7 National Tournament. The tournament will be held in New Orleans, Louisiana and hosted by the New Orleans Saints on July 10-13. Seattle was one of 16 teams chosen to compete over two days, starting with round-robin play, followed by a single-elimination tournament.
Building off of the NFL's HSPD (High School Player Development) program, each day will have a character development component with roundtable discussions, guest speakers and break-out groups. The Seahawks do not have an HSPD program in place right now, but they are hoping to start to change that with this event.
"All of this is for the fact that we want these kids to understand how important it is to be a good citizen," Kevin Griffin told Scout.com. Griffin is the Seahawks' Director of Fan Development. "Even though this is a 7-7 tournament, the gist and core of what we are doing is character development."
Twelve regional high school players have been selected to represent the Seahawks in the national tournament, and this is the third year in which it is being held. Here is the roster for the event.
1 D'Mario Carter Kennedy LB/RB Seattle, WA
2 William Chandler Skyline WR/DB Issaquah, WA
3 Grant Gellatly Issaquah DB/RB Bellevue, WA
4 Jake Heaps Skyline QB Sammamish, WA
5 Jake Knecht Skyline WR/DB Issaquah, WA
6 Allen Mooney O'Dea LB/TE Maple Valley, WA
7 Kirby Moore Prosser DB/WR Prosser, WA
8 Gino Simone Skyline WR/DB Sammamish, WA
9 Nathan Tonani Ferris LB/FB Spokane, WA
10 Nolan Washington Kennedy DB/QB Renton, WA
11 Tre Watson Kennedy DB/RB Renton, WA
12 Kasen Williams Skyline WR Sammamish, WA
13 Chad Barrett Skyline Coach Covington, wA
14 Mat Taylor Skyline Coach Snoqualmie, WA
Besides the Seahawks, the NFC teams that will be represented include the Atlanta Falcons, New York Giants, New Orleans Saints, Washington Redskins, San Francisco 49'ers, Carolina Panthers and the Minnesota Vikings. For the AFC, teams from the New England Patriots, Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos will be there.
"It's something you don't normally get the opportunity to do," said sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps. "It's once in a lifetime. To represent the NFL and the Seahawks, it's a special thing."
When the Seahawks were asked by the NFL if they were interested in fielding a team for this year's event, they didn't hesitate. "We were excited about it, so we moved forward," Griffin said. That included the difficult task of putting together a team that would represent the kind of competition and character the Seahawks are about.
The Seahawks have always had a high school coaches council to help the organization and guide them as to how to connect with the high school players. Coach Barrett and Jerry Parrish (North Kitsap) are just two of the local coaches that make up the council.
"It made a lot of sense to have an offense that's cohesive, so that's why you have Skyline's offense," Griffin said when asked about the selection process. "We don't have a lot of practice time, so it made sense to have players that already knew the plays. Then we decided to have a tryout for the defense, which we did about a month ago."
"It's cool," Kennedy linebacker D'Mario Carter said of this past weekend's practice - the only one the team will be able to work in before leaving for Louisiana. They will do a walkthrough the first day they get to New Orleans. "It's like a feeling you had when you are little, to be out here."
"It's fun, because we all know each other," added Carter's Kennedy teammate, defensive back Tre Watson. "It's an honor that we all got picked, so I feel blessed."
"It's going to be a good experience for all of us," added Skyline senior-to-be Gino Simone. "We've been going to camps with these guys. We're all good friends, and it's awesome to be around all of them."
Perhaps one of the factors that went into using Skyline's offensive attack was the fact that many of the same players picked for this team also participated in New Level Athletic's Badger Sports/Scout.com Passing Tournament in Las Vegas this past March. Heaps, Simone and Kennedy's Nolan Washington were named to the All-Las Vegas Team, and the team from the state of Washington finished second overall.
For Washington, the trip to New Orleans will be especially poignant, as he has family members that were displaced as a result of Hurricane Katrina. And despite the fact that Katrina hit the Louisiana coast nearly three years ago, the ripple effect of its devastation will still be felt for years.
"I've always wondered," Washington said about Katrina and its aftermath. "I'm excited and anxious to get down there."
As part of the character development aspect of this tournament, the NFL is going to lead the teams through a tour of the Lower Ninth Ward as a whole group. Most expect it to be a big eye-opener.
"It's going to be humbling and emotional, to see what they've been through and are still going through today," said Carter.
"This will be a good experience for the team, just to see how blessed we are and what we can take from it," added Watson.
Williams, who will only be a sophomore this coming fall, is soaking everything in. "I'm glad I'm out here," he said. "It's a good opportunity to run with the older guys, so when it's game time I know what it's going to be like."
For his part, Washington harbors no illusions about what the team is going down there for.
"We're going to try and win this thing," he said, matter-of-factly.
"By bringing them in, we're doing three things," Griffin said. "They are getting inside access to the Seahawks' organization. Secondly, they are going to get to compete against some really good football players from around the country. And they also get a trip that's all expenses paid to New Orleans to participate in this event."
And amongst all the souvenirs, pictures and stories, this team just might bring back some hardware to add to the 'Hawks' substantial trophy case.
I wouldn't bet against them.
7-7 Seahawks Practice Gallery