Running in the shadows

  • SCOTT M. JOHNSON / Herald Writer
  • Thursday, November 2, 2000 9:00pm
  • Sports

Watters playing well in anonomity caused by Seahawks’ losses


Herald Writer

KIRKLAND — The title of the local radio show was "Battle of the Sexes." The question, "What does Ricky Watters do?"

One contestant, a female from Seattle, correctly named him as a football player, but she could get no more specific. Her male counterpart then confidently added that Watters was a wide receiver, although he also did not know Watters’ team.

The latter contestant, of course, was wrong. But the local rock station’s deejay stuck up for him.

"Understandable," the rock-jock said. "They’re never on TV."

Maybe the plethora of television blackouts have kept Seattle Seahawks fans from appreciating Watters’ true worth this season. But his importance hasn’t gone unnoticed by teammates.

"He’s real inspiring," veteran fullback Mack Strong said. "He plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of passion. You see it out there on the field. You see it in every run, every catch, you see it in his body language. He wears his emotions on his sleeve. And that’s a professional. He’s the spark at times when we need it."

The question of who Ricky Watters is actually has more than one answer. Watters is a running back, a team leader, and the Seattle Seahawks’ best player this season.

The 10-year veteran has stayed out of the spotlight lately, mainly because of the team’s 2-7 record and a blackout of his own (Watters hasn’t spoken to the media since training camp). His performance, however, has been speaking volumes.

While the Seahawks have begun the rebuilding process during this, one of their most frustrating seasons, Watters has given them a veteran lift. He ranks sixth in the AFC in rushing (659), fifth in total yards from scrimmage (889) and has a legitimate chance to set career marks in both categories.

Perhaps most of all, he’s showing the younger players how to keep pushing amid constant adversity.

"He’s been in the league for 10 years or whatever, and you know he’s hurting, but he’s busting his butt," rookie linebacker Isaiah Kacyvenski said. "That’s got to inspire a lot of the younger guys."

Watters’ dedication was on display again this week. He suffered a toe injury during Sunday’s 24-19 loss to Kansas City, but did not inform the team trainers until two days later. He is listed as questionable to play this weekend against San Diego, but none of his teammates believe he’ll end the NFL’s longest starting streak for a running back — 106 games.

Since the Seahawks drafted another running back, Shaun Alexander, in the first round of the NFL draft last April, the 31-year-old Watters has appeared to have an extra bounce in his step. While Seattle’s offense has bumbled through nine games this season, Watters has been consistently hard to tackle and seems to outwork everyone else on the field.

"Whether he had the competition pushing him or not, that’s Ricky Watters out there," said wide receiver Derrick Mayes, one of Watters’ closest friends on the team. "You can’t base it on, all of a sudden, there’s other people and there’s other forces around. Then you’d be doing it for all the wrong reasons. Ricky does it every day for himself and for his family, and that’s it."

The addition of Alexander has given Watters more energy through the simple fact that he won’t have to carry the rushing load all by himself. Last year, Watters became just the third 30-year-old back since 1987 to carry the ball 300 times in one season. His body is taking less of a pounding now, and his projected number of carries this season is less than 250 — a mark he has eclipsed in each of the past five seasons.

Contrary to Mayes’ assessment, some of Watters’ energy also seems to come from the fact that Alexander will one day have his starting job, perhaps as soon as next season.

Running backs coach Stump Mitchell said the addition of Alexander has definitely pushed Watters to pick up his game.

"Ricky’s not going to give the young guy anything," Mitchell said. "Hopefully, Shaun will realize that he’s playing behind a great back and he will pick up some of his work habits and his intensity for the game. Those things, you can’t coach."

Alexander said both running backs have pushed each other.

"Everything he does, I’m going to do it, and then try to do it better," Alexander said. "If I see Ricky doing it, it definitely sets the mark of where I want to go. Just watching him play hard is something that we should all be doing — especially me, because I’m trying to learn from him."

While the Seahawks have struggled all year, Watters seems to have made all the right moves this season. He is the vocal leader of the team, and wears his veteran badge with pride.

That’s what makes his silence off the field puzzling. Watters will go through a Sunday afternoon of thumping on his chest and pulling out teammates’ emotions, then politely decline to talk to the media afterward. In the past, he has always been one of the most verbose interviews on the team.

"Ricky’s a competitor, and he’s used to winning — like other guys on this team are," Strong said. "To be going through what we’re going through now, it’s frustrating, very frustrating. Him being the high-profile guy on the team, everybody’s going to look to him for answers. And I’m sure that can wear on a guy, having to be the spokesman for the team all the time in regards to what’s going wrong."

Perhaps Watters won’t have to worry about that next season. A contract that is scheduled to pay him $3 million, plus the addition of Alexander, might make Watters expendable when 2000 finally winds down. By 2001, he might be carrying the emotional load for someone else.

"As long as he has that drive to play football, I don’t think he’s ever going to slow down," Strong said. "You can put him right up there with the upper echelon of backs, and those guys didn’t play until they were 32, 33, 34 years old. I think he can absolutely do that."

Watters isn’t washed up yet. If you don’t believe it, watch him.

If you get the chance, that is.

  • NOTES: Watters was held out of practice again Thursday, but is expected to practice today. … Coach Mike Holmgren became a grandfather Sunday for the first time. His daughter Calla gave birth to a daughter, Emma Elizabeth, at the University of Washington Medical Center.
    Talk to us

    > Give us your news tips.

    > Send us a letter to the editor.

    > More Herald contact information.

  • More in Sports

    Glacier Peak’s Mateo Ganje wins the Boys 200M 4A dash during the Class 4A, 3A, 2A track and field state championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, Washington on Saturday, May 25, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    State track: Glacier Peak’s Mateo Ganje claims 200 gold

    Ganje, Everett jumper Shukurani Ndayiragije each take home three top-three medals.

    The Jackson softball team poses with the Class 4A state tournament trophy after a 10-1 triumph over Emerald Ridge Saturday, May 25 at Columbia Playfield in Richland, WA. (Aaron Coe / The Herald).
    Domination: Jackson repeats as 4A state softball champion

    The Yanina Sherwood-led Timberwolves top Emerald Ridge 10-1 in the title game.

    Snohomish’s Hannah Siegler becomes emotional after striking out in the final inning of the 3A state softball championship game against Auburn Riverside on Saturday, May 25, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Snohomish softball falls in 3A state championship game

    The Panthers lose 11-6 to Auburn Riverside, marking their second straight championship-game defeat.

    State roundup: Murphy’s Balen, Jackson boys win tennis titles

    Grace Academy’s Pearce Hess sweeps the sprints in the Class 1B boys track and field meet.

    Snohomish players move their teamname up the bracket after a 3A softball game between Snohomish and Seattle Prep at the regional athletic complex in Lacey, Washington on Friday, May 24, 2024. Snohomish won, 8-0. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    Snohomish softball advances to state semifinals

    Abby Edwards’ pitching, Camryn Sage’s hitting lifts Snohomish to an 8-0 quarterfinal win over Seattle Prep.

    The Jackson softball team greets Yanina Sherwood after her sixth-inning, two-run homer put Jackson ahead 4-1 a Class 4A state playoff first-round game May 24 at Columbia Playfields in Richland, WA (Aaron Coe / The Herald).
    Jackson softball halfway to defending its state championship

    The Timberwolves beat Eastmont, Olympia to move into the Class 4A semifinals.

    Lake Stevens’ Brown, Pilchuck’s Velasquez win state titles

    How did locals fare at state in track and field, baseball and tennis? Find out here.

    Mariners report card: ‘A lot of positives’ at 50-game mark

    Does Seattle have enough to maintain its lead in the AL West through the rest of the season?

    Snohomish players celebrate beating Garfield in the 3A state softball semifinal game to advance to the championship on Saturday, May 25, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Snohomish beats Garfield to advance to state championship

    The Panthers punch their ticket to the state championship game with a 9-8 win over Garfield.

    Cascade’s Mia Walker, right, cries and hugs teammate Allison Gehrig after beating Gig Harbor on Thursday, May 23, 2024 in Lacey, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
    Seniors Wilson, Tripp power Cascade softball past Gig Harbor

    The pair combined for three homers as the Bruins won the Class 3A state softball opening-round game.

    Everett’s Ndayiragije claims Class 3A boys high jump title

    The favorite cleared 6-8 to highlight locals on day one of the track and field championships.

    Jacob Rohde surveys the area at Everett Golf & Country Club during last year’s final round of the Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament. The three-time champion is among this year’s favorites. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
    It’s out with the old, in with the new at the County Am

    The 93rd Snohomish County Amateur golf tournament takes place Saturday through Monday.

    Support local journalism

    If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.