Seahawks.com Senior Reporter
K.J. Wright arrived in Seattle in 2011 just hoping to carve out a role on an NFL team. He’ll end his career more than a decade later as a Seahawk and as one of the franchise’s all-time greats.
Wright accomplished his first, modest goal by not just making the team out of his first training camp, but by also earning the starting role at middle linebacker as a rookie. Wright then started eying bigger goals, and over the next decade he put together a career that exceeded even his loftiest of expectations, an 11-year career—with 10 of those seasons coming in Seattle—that saw him become one of the best linebackers in team history, a beloved teammate, a fan favorite and a pillar of the community.
And on Wednesday, Wright signed a one-day contract with the Seahawks that will allow him to retire with the team that drafted him and in the city he calls home.
Following his 10th season, one he knew might be his last in Seattle, Wright reflected on everything he had experienced as a Seahawk.
“It’s amazing,” he said following the 2020 season. “I’ve accomplished way, way more than I thought I ever could. When I first came here, I just wanted to play football, but you start playing football, and all these different opportunities start opening up for you, so it’s just been amazing. I’ve done everything I could for this city, and I plan to continue to post-football. I just want to be great in the community, help people and be around football.
“It’s meant everything. I believe I put together a Ring-of-Honor resume with my play, how I’ve helped in the community, helped bring the team a Super Bowl. The legacy is pretty cool. I’m thankful for every play that I’ve played.”
Always with us, @KJ_WRIGHT34. pic.twitter.com/8UwiBGBTIe
When John Schneider and Pete Carroll called Wright to tell him the Seahawks were going to select him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft, Seattle’s general manager and head coach worried the team’s newest linebacker wasn’t sufficiently excited about becoming an NFL player.
It turned out Wright had a good reason for his subdued reaction—he was in the middle of his graduation ceremony at Mississippi State—and he not only was thrilled to be joining the Seahawks, but he was ready to kick off a career that would go down as one of the best in team history for a defensive player.
Over 10 seasons with the Seahawks, Wright piled up 934 tackles, the third most in team history behind Bobby Wagner and Eugene Robinson, and he earned Pro-Bowl honors in 2016 while playing at a Pro-Bowl level in plenty of other seasons, including his final season in Seattle.
Wright’s tenure in Seattle will likely be more defined by team success, however, than any individual accomplishments, and he and his teammates in the 2010s were part of the most successful era in franchise history.
During Wright’s 10 seasons in Seattle, the Seahawks went to the playoffs eight times, winning four division titles, two NFC championships and one Super Bowl. With Wright playing a big role as a starting linebacker, Seattle’s defense was one of the best in NFL history in 2013, and from 2012-2015 the Seahawks led the NFL in scoring defense for four straight seasons, making them the only team to accomplish that in the Super Bowl era.
“He’s meant everything, not only to the team, the community—he does a lot of charity work, a lot of work in the community—but then he’s a guy who shares his knowledge with all the guys,” Wright’s longtime teammate and close friend Bobby Wagner said in 2020. “Ten years of experience is a long time for somebody to have some knowledge, and he’s a guy that offers that knowledge, and constantly has conversations with everybody, whether old guy, young guy, because he’s a guy who truly wants to see everybody succeed and everybody provide for their family the best way possible. He means everything to our team, to the organization, to the community, to this football family.”
In addition to being a playmaker on the field and, as Carroll once described him, “a perfect teammate,” Wright also had a huge impact off the field. After traveling to Kenya, then raising money to build fresh-water wells, Wright was named the team’s nominee for the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2018; he has also been active in the community locally on a number of fronts, including stepping up to support other teammates’ causes throughout his career, including a trip to Haiti with Cliff Avril to help build a school; and in 2020 he won the Steve Largent Award, one of the team’s most prestigious honors. Wright was named the Seattle Sports Star of the Year for men’s sports at the 86th annual Seattle Sports Star of the Year Award.
“K.J. Wright has been an incredible Seahawk and been an incredible man in the community as well,” Carroll said last year after Wright signed with the Raiders. “There aren’t enough words to talk about the kind of person that he is, the wonderful contributor he has been to the program for 10 years. We had a blast together. I love K.J… K.J. will always be a Seahawk.”
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Seahawks.com Senior Reporter