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South Kitsap’s ‘Golden Boy’ celebrates Seahawks’ silver trophy
Looking out the bus window at a sea of blue-and-green clad fans swallowing up the streets of Downtown Seattle, he paused for a moment of reflection.
David Stricklin, a 1999 South Kitsap High School graduate, was different from many in the Seattle Seahawks’ organization who celebrated the franchise’s first Super Bowl championship during the Feb. 5 parade.
Unlike the architects of the team, such as coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, Stricklin was raised in the area. His father, Gary, was a season-ticket holder in the 1980s, and the younger Stricklin was on hand to witness the impeccable routes Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent used to gain separation from defenders, safety Kenny Easley accelerating faster than a treadmill to intercept a pass, and the draw plays run to precision by Curt Warner.
Stricklin saw some of the Seahawks’ best teams during Chuck Knox’s coaching era in the packed, boisterous Kingdome.
But it couldn’t compare to that freezing February morning.
“That was really neat to see the city come out,” he said. “I can’t imagine the victory parade to be much larger. To see that many people show up was amazing. It shows that sports can be more than just sports. They can be a unifying body.
“It was fun to be part of the center of Seattle’s heartbeat for a week.”
Stricklin, who turns 33 in March, has worked as an athletic trainer for the Seahawks since 2010 — but being part of the organization has in no way quelled his interest as a fan. Stricklin said he relishes success even more now. Back then, he shared a father-son ritual during games: Peanuts during the first quarter, followed by hot dogs, pretzels and frosties in each successive period. The scoreboard was secondary to the bonding process.
“The wins and losses part of it wasn’t that important to me,” Stricklin said. “As I got older, you want your team to feel successful. You can hold your head a little higher.”
He has witnessed plenty of success at CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have tallied a 24-8 regular-season record in Carroll’s four seasons. The team’s rabid fan base set a noise record for loudest outdoor sports stadium. An official from Guinness World Records recorded the crowd noise at 137.6 decibels during the December win against New Orleans. For perspective, a jet engine at 100 feet is about 140 decibels.
That support did not wane as the team traveled to New Jersey for the Feb. 2 Super Bowl, where Seattle defeated Denver 43-8. Stricklin had prior experience with the event as he interned with the Seahawks in 2005 when they advanced to the championship game against Pittsburgh in Detroit. While he said that season helped get him ready for Super Bowl XLVIII “as far as preparation and what to expect,” the environment surrounding the event in the country’s largest media market was much different.
One significant difference from the team’s first championship appearance eight years ago is the proliferation of social media. In fact, Twitter was founded less than two months after Super Bowl XL. By using the hashtag #WhosGonnaWin, Denver and Seattle fans were able to post their predictions on Twitter, which were tracked via an algorithm created by a team of MIT graduates. The fan base that tweeted the most saw the Empire State Building reflected in their team colors over the course of the week leading up to the game. Seattle dominated the competition, winning all but one night — and that was a tie.
“That’s an iconic building in U.S. history,” Stricklin said. “That area is one of the cradles of entertainment in our country next to Los Angeles. It was all dedicated to Seahawks and Broncos that week.”
Stricklin even appeared on TV during the big game when he was on the cart transporting injured cornerback Richard Sherman to the locker room for an examination on his right ankle during the fourth quarter.
It is possible that none of these experiences would have occurred without Stricklin’s own injury in 1997.
As a high-school junior with visions of creating his own gridiron memories — Stricklin said he was being recruited by Central Washington University — he dislocated his left shoulder and required surgery.
“Getting injured in high school probably was a shaping event,” Stricklin said. “It helped me realize that football probably wasn’t what I was going to be playing for a lifetime.”
As the recruiting interest slipped away, Stricklin developed a new interest.
He frequently found himself rehabilitating his shoulder under the guidance of former South Kitsap certified athletic trainer and teacher Patrick Olsen and his staff.
“I wanted to learn more about it,” Stricklin said. “I took the class and fell in love with it. It was just natural being around athletes and active people. It just fit.”
Stricklin took the entry-level athletic-medicine program at South, which put him behind many of his peers. But Olsen said Stricklin’s dedication helped him overcome his lack of experience.
“He never used that as a crutch,” Olsen said. “He worked harder than anyone.”
That showed during the spring of 1999, when the Wolves traveled to the state’s athletic-medicine competition. Olsen said Stricklin made such an impression on the instructors that the trophy for the top junior-varsity placer was dubbed the “Strick Award” two years later.
“It’s a relationship-type business,” said Olsen, who now is the athletic director for the North Kitsap School District. “Once he makes that connection, people figure out he’s really intelligent.”
Stricklin attributes those qualities to his success. He noted that athletic medicine, which he said encompasses about 80,000 people throughout the United States, is a small field.
That makes interpersonal relationships important.
Olsen noticed that when he visited the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton. While players and coaches earn much more money than Stricklin, Olsen never noticed anyone treating him differently.
“Every coach and player that walked by talked with David,” Olsen said. “You could just see the connection between the coaching staff, players and David.”
That became apparent when Stricklin was hired by both Oregon State University and the Seahawks after previous stints with both.
After earning his degree from Central Washington in 2003, he worked as a graduate assistant for the football program while pursuing a master’s degree in athletic medicine at OSU.
He then interned for the Seahawks in 2005 before he returned later that year to Corvallis, Ore., to work with the Beavers’ football and baseball programs.
He said it was the impression he made during previous stints that enabled him to be hired there and later with the Seahawks.
“It worked out for the best because of the position I put myself in five years earlier,” he said.
The Golden Boy
Olsen refers to Stricklin as the Golden Boy because of the success his teams have experienced.
His initial stint with the Seahawks resulted in a Super Bowl appearance, and when he returned to OSU, Stricklin was part of the Beavers’ baseball program that won national championships in 2006 and ’07.
While Olsen acknowledges talent was a significant factor behind that success, he said Stricklin and others helped put those teams in position to win by keeping them healthy.
Because of privacy laws, Stricklin is limited in what he can share about his position. But it typically involves arriving at the VMAC at 5:45 a.m. on weekdays to set up and usually continues until 7 p.m. During the regular season, it is a seven-days-a-week undertaking, as most games are played on Sunday.
“I hate Mondays like the rest of the world,” he said, “but I hate Mondays because of what happened on Sunday.”
To Stricklin, the word “offseason” is a misnomer. After all, he is in Indianapolis last week with other members of the organization for the NFL Scouting Combine. There also are offseason surgeries and accompanying rehabilitations for players.
Despite that, Stricklin believes he and his wife, Courtney, will be able to take some time off in March to snowboard, perhaps in Whistler, British Columbia.
“There’s no traditional offseasons any longer,” he said. “The hits just don’t stop coming.”
Not for a franchise that expects to take down opponents en route to another confetti shower.