By Scott M. Johnson Herald Columnist
This isn’t going to end well.
That’s the first thought that came to mind when the Seattle Seahawks used their first-round pick in the 2002 NFL draft on a University of Washington tight end named Jerramy Stevens.
At the time, Stevens’ history of unscrupulous activity was so infamous around these parts that then-Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren needed a handshake and a promise that Stevens would pull his life together before selecting the Husky star with the 28th overall pick.
It’s the same thing I thought three weeks ago, when I was standing in a room inside a UW administration building watching U.S. women’s soccer star Hope Solo sign books and Stevens sauntered through the door. Wearing a thick gold chain that dangled over a white T-shirt and his trademark long, pointed chin beard, Stevens offered a brief glance before sitting down next to Solo and beginning to caress her arm.
That’s when it hit me. This isn’t going to end well.
My suspicions only grew a few days ago, when news came out that Stevens and Solo, who were engaged to be married, were involved in some sort of domestic dispute. Two former UW athletes who haven’t been able to stay out the headlines were back in the public eye. And while I wasn’t at all surprised, I found myself feeling markedly disappointed at the news.
I spent 45 minutes with Stevens and Solo on Oct. 24, interviewing her about life and fame, observing the two of them together, and finally having a casual, one-on-one conversation with Stevens while she signed autographs at the UW soccer complex.
I approached him because I knew the nature of their relationship — unknown outside of their inner circle at that point in time — would be of public interest, and I wanted to know whether he minded me “outing” them in print. Stevens said he would appreciate me keeping his name out of the story, adding that he preferred my article to be “about her.” We looked each other in the eye, man to man, and I decided to respect his wish.
We’d spoken many times over the years, but never as casually. Most of our conversations took place in the Seahawks locker room, and there was more than one occasion when Stevens shooed me away from his locker with an expletive during his five-year career with Seattle’s NFL team.
During those years, I’d spoken to him about maturity, about redemption and mostly about football. I’d seen his eyes well with tears after he dropped three passes in Super Bowl XL, not only costing the Seahawks a title but also failing to live up to a week of trash talk with Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Joey Porter.
What frustrated me most about running into him again late last month was that all of that false bravado Stevens carried through his early NFL years was still there. The modesty I expected from a 33-year-old man whose criminal record and DUI convictions had catapulted him out of two NFL cities was nowhere to be found. He bragged about his large bank account and joked that he wasn’t going to take a job that would require much work. He talked about a friendship he’d had with Solo since they attended the UW together around the turn of the century, adding that she’d never before invited him to a UW soccer game.
But then Stevens showed his softer side, saying that he wouldn’t want to get into coaching because he couldn’t imagine being away from his family — his future family — for that many hours at a time. It was a brief peek into the sentimental side of him, and whether his words were genuine or not, I decided to end the conversation on that note.
Then came this week’s news that frustrated me on several levels. I guess I had hoped that, despite his predictable front, Jerramy Stevens had begun taking steps toward maturity. News of a domestic dispute the day before his wedding with Solo — and, perhaps even more alarming, the decision to go through with the marriage — left me thinking back on a man’s life that just keeps repeating itself. Thirty-three years old and Jerramy Stevens still seems stuck in a cycle.
And Solo, in her constant pursuit of fame and fortune, appears to be on her own path of questionable decisions.
I sincerely hope Stevens and Solo find happiness. Stranger things have happened.
But my initial reaction is the one that keeps hounding me.
This isn’t going to end well.