NEWARK, N.J. — All football fans remember the “Monday Night Football” game that basically ended the officiating labor dispute.
The Seahawks beat the Packers after makeshift officials ruled a touchdown catch by Golden Tate.
Alvin Bailey remembers that game, too. But not for that reason. That game made him want to be a Seahawk.
“I loved the way those guys played, the enthusiasm, the passion they play with,” said Bailey, a 2009 Broken Arrow High School graduate.
So when Bailey left the University of Arkansas a year early, declared for the 2013 NFL Draft and went unchosen, disappointment soon gave way to glee. The Seahawks called, offering a free-agent contract.
And 10 days ago, Bailey was on the field, delivering the key block as Marshawn Lynch rambled 40 yards for a touchdown that helped put Seattle in the Super Bowl.
“I'm having the time of a lifetime,” said Bailey, who serves as the virtual sixth man on the Seahawks' offensive line.
He's made no starts. But Bailey played about a dozen snaps in the NFC Championship Game as an extra lineman. And he cleared out 49er safety Donte Whitner, allowing Lynch to score and put the Seahawks in control.
Bailey said leaving Arkansas wasn't just a good decision, “it was a great decision.
“I thought I was going to get drafted. Things didn't work out that way. But I made it to the Seahawks, we're in the Super Bowl now. I don't regret anything.
“I've got full confidence in my ability. I know I can play. I had a lot of teams call me, wanting me to come as a free agent. But I chose the Seahawks and everything worked out so far.”
Bailey was on the 2008 Oklahoman all-state team, with the likes of Gabe Ikard, Tracy Moore, Gabe Lynn, Ronnell Lewis, Brandon Webb, Javon Harris and Donte Foster.
Lewis already has been in, and now out, of the NFL. Others are headed for the pros. But only Bailey and his Seahawk teammate, Michael Bowie, have been on the NFL fast track from that stellar class. They're both in the Super Bowl as rookies.
Certainly gives Bailey the chance to gloat. A kid from Broken Arrow might like to lord over old foes from Jenks and Tulsa Union, which have dominated Oklahoma Class 6A since long before and still after Bailey's school days.
But no. “I really haven't thought about that,” Bailey said. “I left a year early. All those guys are coming out this year. I'm friends with a lot of people from the town. I know basically everybody in Tulsa.
“Some of those guys are going to make it, too. It'll be exciting to have more people from Oklahoma, the Tulsa area.”
Undrafted free agents have a stiff challenge to stick on an NFL roster.
“At the same time, there's a bunch of 'em do it every year,” said Seahawk offensive line coach Tom Cable.
“Alvin's a perfect example of sticking to what got you there in terms of hard work and finding out ‘I can play, I can play at this high level.' And he's committed to it.
“For me, you're just looking for big, strong, tough kids. If they'll strain, if they'll work hard enough, we can do the rest.”
Bailey didn't play in Seattle's first two games but played in the final 14 regular-season games. Then he wasn't used in the NFC semifinals against the Saints but was ready for the 49ers.
“He's a talent,” Cable said. “He's a natural pass-protector who's learning how to be a run player and continues to improve in that.”
Bailey went to Arkansas because he's a lifelong Razorback. His dad, Alvin Bailey Sr., played basketball for Eddie Sutton in the Ozarks.
“I was probably the easiest recruit for Arkansas ever,” Bailey said. “I wanted to play in the SEC.”
But again, given the chance to talk some SEC smack, Bailey declined.
“There's great athletes everywhere,” Bailey said.
But he admitted, the SEC helped mold him into an NFL prospect.
“Oh man, it was great,” Bailey said. “I played against a lot of linemen who are making a lot of plays right now in the NFL. I played in some great stadiums. It was a great experience to play against the talent that was in the conference.”
Bailey's role for the Super Bowl remains unknown. Cable is coy about what the Seahawks will do. No one saw Bailey's role against the 49ers coming. But he consistently entered as part of the Beast package, basically lining up as a tight end as the Seahawks pounded the ball.
And had fun doing it. Just like Bailey saw in that Monday night game that changed his life.
Berry Tramel: Berry can be reached at (405) 760-8080 or at email@example.com. He can be heard Monday through Friday from 4:40-5:20 p.m. on The Sports Animal radio network, including FM-98.1. You can also view his personality page at newsok.com/berrytramel.