RENTON — Greg Scruggs will openly admit that he had mixed feelings watching his teammates win Super Bowl XLVIII.
Scruggs was a part of the Seahawks, but thanks to a torn ACL suffered the previous spring, was not on the active roster. The defensive end had not, in the form of on-field contributions, been a part of Seattle’s championship season.
“It was tough,” Scruggs said. “It’s kind of a bittersweet feeling winning the Super Bowl for me … I take nothing away from my teammates and everything they accomplished, but I feel like I have work to do. Last year for me was tough, because I wanted to enjoy every bit of it, but there was a piece of me that couldn’t, just because I know I didn’t do my part.”
But don’t think for a second that Scruggs, one of the most upbeat athletes —scratch that, humans — you will ever meet feels sorry for himself after spending a championship season sidelined by injury. After all, a Super Bowl, never mind an NFL career, wasn’t a childhood dream for Scruggs. Torn ACL or not, he feels incredibly fortunate to be where he is now. A member of the marching band at Cincinnati’s Xavier High School, Scruggs didn’t play football until his senior year, and only did so then when Xavier coach Steve Specht made him an offer Scruggs couldn’t refuse.
“I wanted to get a scholarship, that was my only dream was to get a scholarship,” Scruggs said. “My high school coach said, ‘You show me you can hit somebody and I’ll get you a scholarship.’”
“To be honest, I never expected to be here … I didn’t play football until I was a senior in high school. I initially played football only to get a college scholarship, and everything else is icing on the cake. So every day I’m here I’m enjoying it, I’m loving it and trying to make the most of it.”
Making the most of it now means trying to establish himself in Seattle’s defensive line rotation after missing all of the 2013 season. Scruggs, a seventh-round pick out of Louisville — Specht made good on his promise, helping Scruggs land several scholarship offers — carved out a small role as a rookie in 2012, and in 11 games had 11 tackles and two sacks. Now, with the Seahawks losing Clinton McDonald in free agency and releasing Red Bryant and Chris Clemons in salary cap-related moves, there are jobs to be won in Seattle’s D-line rotation, and so far Scruggs looks to have a good chance to find a role. Like Michael Bennett, one of Seattle’s best defensive players, Scruggs is trying to stand out with both athleticism and versatility, and early in camp he’s making a strong impression playing both as an end and an interior pass rusher.
“To come off an ACL and be that fast is pretty good,” Bennett said. “It’s crazy how good he is.”
Scruggs isn’t just fast, he’s gotten bigger, going from roughly 290 pounds as a rookie to 310 at the start of camp this year.
“He’s come back really in great shape,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “He’s bigger and stronger than ever … We really cherish the guys who can do more than one thing and we love to have the flexibility. He can play the inside and outside so we’re going to use him doing all of that and just see how it goes.”
Yet for all Scruggs is poised to do on the field, he perhaps stands out more for the goofy, and giving, character he is off of it. For the goofy side, just follow his Twitter or Instagram accounts — Wednesday he posted a video of Brandon Mebane swimming and wrote, “Bet y’all didn’t know we had an aquarium. We named this whale Brandon. Or check out the weekly podcast called “Beauty and the Champ” he does with Ellen Tailor on 100.7 The Wolf. And by the way, Scruggs claims he’s both Beauty and the Champ.
For the generous side, watch Scruggs interact with his fans, both in person and on social media. Some famous people tolerate fans; Scruggs goes out of his way to interact with them. When he came off the field to be interviewed for this column, quarterback Russell Wilson was about to address the media. Scruggs, realizing that this writer had to make a choice, laughed and said, “Oh, you want to get Russell. Go ahead man, you can get Russell. Go ahead, man.”
And what’s relevant here wasn’t that Scruggs was accommodating to the media, but rather what happened next. Instead of waiting in an air-conditioned building after two hours of practice in the sun, Scruggs walked back out into the mid-80s heat to sign autographs for 10 minutes while Wilson held his press conference. Scruggs is also a guy who will solicit off-day plans on Twitter, then show up at somebody’s barbecue or birthday party, or just take a teenage fan for lunch.
“The fact that somebody wants to take the time to acknowledge me, follow me, yell my name, the least I can do is give my attention,” Scruggs said. “If I were to yell your name on the street, you would respond. I’ve been blessed to be in the position I’m in.
“You never know. The way I look at it is that the person who I sign an autograph for, or the person I took the time to shake their hand, to hug, to kiss on the cheek, to take a picture with, whatever, that person might have been on their way home to commit suicide, that person might have been going home to an abusive household, and the least I can do is give them a glimpse of joy and a glimpse of happiness.
“I’ve always liked to be that way just because you never know what somebody’s going through, and we’ve got the platform to make a tremendous impact.”
Scruggs’ impact has already been felt by many Seahawks fans over the past two years. Healthy once again, he’s now ready to make his impact on the field in 2014.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.