On Thursday, the Seattle Seahawks announced that they had waived-injured wide receiver, Doug Baldwin. The move was not unexpected but still hit home for many fans.
One of those fans was yours truly. You see, I am very picky about the individual athletes I embrace. In fact, I have but one athlete’s jersey in my closet: a blue, Seattle Seahawks Doug Baldwin, number 89. While people embraced Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, or Richard Sherman, I always held Doug in the highest of esteem.
On the field, Baldwin was an incredible receiver. He was quick, fast, smart, agile, could accelerate, had great hands, and put defensive backs onto a merry go round on a week in and week out basis. But Doug wasn’t always appreciated for his skills. For most of his life, he was largely ignored.
A small wide receiver from Florida, Doug was ignored by every school in the SEC or ACC and only received one scholarship offer. He went to Stanford and was a key cog in the most successful run in the school’s history, only to be overshadowed by Andrew Luck and Jim Harbaugh.
Doug wasn’t invited to the NFL combine. He was undrafted, ignored by every team in the league in favor of over 250 other players. That included his college coach as Harbaugh was named head coach of the 49ers.
He came to Seattle as an undrafted free agent and for a brief moment, was anything but ignored. In his rookie season, he caught 51 passes for 788 yards, grabbing the attention of everybody in Seattle. And yet, nobody in the national media cared.
During the 2013 season, the Seahawks offense was overshadowed and largely ignored in favor of an all-time great defense. The offense was so irrelevant in some eyes, it led ESPN analyst and NFL Hall of Famer Chris Carter to call Doug Baldwin and the Seahawks receiving core “pedestrian”.
And even walking off the field as a Super Bowl champion, Baldwin was overshadowed by Wilson, Lynch, Percy Harvin, and Golden Tate. It wasn’t until 2015 that world woke to the greatness of Doug Baldwin and even then he wasn’t recognized as a true, elite wide receiver.
Through it all, Doug kept pushing himself. He demanded respect and to be recognized. He wasn’t afraid to put Richard Sherman in his place, or get in his quarterbacks face and demand excellence. He pushed the boundaries of what was acceptable and occasionally crossed the line. But like a real human being, he grew and made better choices.
And that was the essence of Doug Baldwin. He was human and showed it. Not a robot like Russ. Not anti-authority like Marshawn. He wasn’t as demonstrative as Richard Sherman, nor as physically gifted as Bobby Wagner.
Doug wasn’t always happy like Pete Carroll. He wasn’t as funny as Michael Bennett or as quiet as Cliff Avril. He wasn’t as weird as Earl Thomas. Even on the greatest team in the greatest era of franchise history, Doug was largely ignored. But what was great about Doug is that he was all of his teammates and yet unlike any one of them. Doug is as real as it gets and that, to me, is beautiful.
If this truly is the end of Doug Baldwin’s football career, it is a bittersweet moment for me. I’ll forever miss his glorious one-handed catches and flawless routes. I’ll miss his insane releases and toughness beyond measure.
But I’ll always have those memories and forever cheer for him as he continues to change lives off the field. Doug Baldwin is the picture-perfect model of what a present-day athlete should be: smart, caring, and willing to discuss bigger issues without fear of disrupting his brand.
Doug Baldwin will forever be a Seattle Seahawks legend. And you better believe his work in the community will only continue to grow. For all these reasons and many more, this Seahawks fan wishes him only the brightest of days for whatever lies ahead and offers an unapologetic and tearful “thank you” for all he has done.
Godspeed, Doug. We will see you around.
Colby Patnode, Seahawks Fan.