Introducing 12s to Lofa Tatupu

LofaTatupuWho is that assistant linebacker’s coach the Seahawks just hired? Why is he so important? And why is everyone so excited to have him aboard?

These are questions you may find yourself asking in the wake of the recent news about the hiring of one Lofa Tatupu, new assistant linebacker’s coach for your Seattle Seahawks. And your questions are certainly valid. How often do we really get excited about an assistant’s assistant, anyway? And why this assistant’s assistant, for that matter?

You’re very lost and confused. You’ve been a 12 since 2012, but this name rings no bells. Tatupu? Can’t remember hearing that one tossed around the water cooler at work. Fear not, good 12. Despite your relative lack of devotion to a sports franchise which you’ve blindly pledged your faith, we’re here to help. Let’s begin, shall we?

The legend of Lofa Tatupu begins precisely one decade ago, in a simpler time, before the advent of Twitter, or iPhones, or even Super Bowl XLVIII neck tattoos. It is a legend that spans just six years, and yet one that radiates as bright as the dazzling incandescence of a colossal supernova. Tatupu, you see, was a vibrant, lustrous star. But we’ll table his legend for now. Because in order to be properly introduced to greatness, one must first understand what greatness is not.

Lofa Tatupu is not many things. For those lifelong Seahawks fans who can recall Tatupu just as easily as they might recall their home address or the name of their first love, this exercise we’re about to undertake is mindless drivel. But for everyone else, it is absolutely imperative that we uncover all those things that Tatupu isn’t, lest a clever warlock of a fan attempt to coax forth your ignorance with a dastardly trick. To prevent such chicanery from infringing upon your day-to-day fanaticism, I will show you a handful of pictures of people who you may not recognize who are not this Tatupu character. After that, we’ll introduce you to the mystery man you so anxiously await.

First off, Lofa Tatupu is not this fellow:

NFL Preseason - Dallas Cowboys vs Seattle Seahawks - August 22, 2005

That, friends, is Shaun Alexander. You can think of him as Marshawn Lynch before there was a Marshawn Lynch. Except no one would confuse Alexander’s running style as anything resembling “Beast Mode.” But that’s beside the point. The point is, Shaun Alexander is not Lofa Tatupu. Don’t be fooled.

Moving on, we have another gentleman who is not our man Tatupu:


The lithe batsman you see there is Ichiro Suzuki, former right fielder for the Seattle Mariners (baseball team). Ichiro donned the same jersey number, 51, as the Seahawks’ Tatupu. And he did so during the very same era! Befuddling, I know. Similarly, both Ichiro and Tatupu (and yours truly, but that’s neither here nor there) would be urged to check the box labeled “Asian/Pacific Islander/Other” when filling out a standardized exam form. There is seemingly no end to the resemblance between these two.

Finally, we have one last individual who is very much not Lofa Tatupu:


That happens to be A.C. Slater, a fictional character, played by actor Mario Lopez. Slater was arguably the greatest made-up high school football player of all-time. If you were extremely drunk on a Friday night and came across this photo of the ex-Bayside High great, you might confuse his likeness for that of Tatupu. A few too many whiskey sours can do that to a 12, without a doubt. But make no mistake about it: that is not Lofa Tatupu.

So who is Lofa Tatupu? He is the handsome gentleman you see here:

Seattle Seahawks 2010 Headshots

You’re probably wondering what he’s wearing. Once upon a year gone by, those raspberry blue garments you see above were jerseys worn by the Seahawks. On the field, no less. Times certainly have changed.

But forget the attire. Just look at the beast of a man filling out that fabric. THAT, 12s, is Lofa Tatupu. And he was something special, let me tell you. As I mentioned earlier, he played just six years in the NFL, all with your adopted hometown Hawks. No one maximized a sextet of seasons quite like Number 51, however.

Beginning in his inaugural campaign of 2005, Tatupu was a man among men, anchoring the linebacking corps of a Super Bowl-bound ballclub as a rookie. He snagged a trio of interceptions in ’05, recovered a fumble, logged 85 tackles, recorded four sacks, and even scored a touchdown. He was named to the Pro Bowl that year. But that was just the beginning.

Over the ensuing five seasons, Tatupu excelled as one of Seattle’s best defensive players. He went to three consecutive Pro Bowls (’05, ’06, ’07) and was bestowed First Team All-Pro honors following the 2007 campaign.

Tatupu never played a game after the 2010 season, suffering injuries that prevented his career from continuing. It was an unfortunate demise for one of the hardest-working, most deserving players the game had ever seen.

But now he’s back! As an assistant coach for the very same franchise he helped lead to Super Bowl XL. While the legend of his playing career has come to pass, the legend of Coach Tatupu has only just begun. And now you know the full story of the man, the myth, the legend.

You may very well be a new 12. But you won’t be a naive 12. Take this info to the water cooler with you and spread your newfound knowledge.

Go Hawks.

One thought on “Introducing 12s to Lofa Tatupu”

  1. Lofa Tatupu was my very favorite player of all-time growing up. The first season I really began following was the 2005 season, I was 11 years old and had fallen in love with the game of football a year earlier; playing, studying and watching. Problem was that by the time I became a fan, the 2004 season was nearly over(though I still recall asking my brother if #80 was the GOAT Jerry Rice). I couldn’t get enough of football and so when the ’05 season started I was very excited to watch all the games. My brother who was also a sports fanatic(his 1st love was baseball) told me about how when he was growing up in the 90’s he would write letters to players he liked to watch. Now they weren’t necessarily the best players or most famous, they were guys he admired for things like effort, heart and love of the game. He received many autographs, but many he sent were never returned.

    The point of all that is that when I saw Lofa play and give everything he had every play, it struck something in me. I saw he wasn’t as big or as fast as other players, but as an article in the Seattle Times said “He was always called, too slow or too small. Now they only use one word to describe him.. Relentless.” I wrote many letters to many NFL players on a variety of teams requesting an autograph over the years growing up. Only ONE letter was ever returned, a black and white torn out of a newspaper picture of Lofa with his autograph written in sharpie over it. I’ll never forget that he did that for me, and he will always hold a special place in my heart for his kindness.

    PS. I still call us the 12th Man. All those new 12’s annoy the hell out of me for not knowing who Lofa is, or a slow white guy named Joe Jurevicius that helped us reach a Superbowl during a time when Seattle and the NFC West was looked at as the lamest division in football. That team definitely helped spark the fire and evolve into the team the ‘Hawks are today.

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