Berry Tramel

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Super Bowl 48: "Quiet leader" Russell Okung can talk passionately

by Berry Tramel Modified: January 30, 2014 at 4:05 pm •  Published: January 30, 2014

I wrote about former OSU star Russell Okung for the Thursday Oklahoman. You can read that here. Okung is the starting left tackle for the Seattle Seahawks, who play the Broncos on Sunday in Super Bowl 48.

But I had a bunch of other material on Okung, so I thought I would share it:

* Seahawk defensive tackle Michael Brooks on who are the unknown leaders of the Seattle team: “One of the quiet leaders probably would be Russell Okung and probably Brandon Mebane, too. They don’t do a whole lot of talking, but behind the scenes, in the locker room, they’re the ones leading. Great advice and game-plan stuff also.”

* Okung on what he learned at OSU that helped get him to this level: “I got my degree, but I learned commitment and waking up early, dedicating your life, dedicating your time and prioritizing. Those were some of the best key components that I learned at OklahomaState that will hold me forever.”

* Okung’s father was murdered when Okung was five years old. His mother raised him in Greater Houston.

Okung was asked this week about his Christian faith. He didn’t give the pat answer.

“I’m so glad I have the opportunity to be here and it’s a privilege to be amongst all of you,” Okung said. “I just think back on my life and I look back over it, man, and I realize that if it wasn’t for Jesus Christ, man, I wouldn’t be here, I wouldn’t be here at all. For those of you who don’t know, for those of you who don’t have a relationship with Jesus Christ, he saves. He saves and he’s with you. He’s always with you.

“I don’t know your relationship, but I’ll tell you he’s better than substances, he’s better than abuse, he’s better than fatherlessness, he’s better than all those things and I’m a living testament that God is real and God is here. I’m so glad you asked me that, man, for real.”

* Okung was asked how he juggles being a Christian and a physical competitor in what some consider a barbaric sport.

“I believe that God has placed each one of us here with a purpose and it goes a lot more beyond the sport, but more into platform and where we’re put,” Okung said. “Just as good as you are as a chaplain, that’s what God’s positioned you to bring glory to him. Now it is a physical sport, but at the end of the day, it’s still a game. It’s still a game and there’s sportsmanship out there and there’s a respect that we have for one another, or there should be. That’ just our arena. We’re still men outside of that. We’re still leaders, we’re still fathers, brothers, all those things together. So I have to say yeah, it is a physical game, but it’s just what we do, not what we are.”

* Okung had a lot of pressure as the No. 6 overall pick in 2010. But he’s lived up to that billing.

“What you learn from the experience, I think the outside tries to make it more than what it is,” Okung said. “At the end of the day it will be football and it will be something you love to do.”

* The Seattle running game is a big theme of Super Bowl week, and the Seahawk offensive line hasn’t been in the shadows. The Seahawks have used rookies (including Oklahomans Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey) along with veterans.

“We’re just kind of intolerant,” Okung said. “We don’t allow them to act like young guys or even play like them. Since OTAs (off-season training activities) and minicamps, we’ve been staying on top of them and really encouraging them to be at their best.”

And the results have been “amazing,” Okung said. “Marshawn (Lynch) is arguably the best running back in the league. To have a guy like that in the backfield, who runs the way he does, is amazing. It doesn’t get any better.”

* Okung had much to say about Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson.

“He’s a great man and everybody sees what he does on that field, but people really don’t know what he does off the field and the type of man he is,” Okung said. “We have a really good relationship. I sincerely call him a friend. We look out for each other now and we encourage each other in our lives as well.”

More Okung on Wilson.

On Wilson’s leadership: “I think he’s a living testament that every play gets out there. Whether we’re up, whether we’re down, he’s going to bring his best game forward and I don’t think a story would do a lot of justice in saying what type of player and what type of man he is.”

On Wilson’s heart: “You see his heart and you see how he is committed to it. You see the way he speaks and the way he carries himself and how he’s always one of the first guys there and the last guys to leave on his first day, first day. He’s there all the time and he’s committed to who he is and those type of guys stick around. Those are the type of guys that last.”

On Seattle’s line suited to Wilson’s style: “We have a great offensive line coach in Tom Cable and we’re very lucky to have him, but we’re designed to play football and it’s our intention to be one of the best, if not the best, force in the league. When we go out there, we put our best foot forward. We want to run the ball and we want to protect our quarterback.”

On Wilson’s ability to make plays with his legs: “He’s just a winner, man. He’s always looking for the great play. He never ceases to amaze me. I can’t speak on the other runners that take off, but I can speak on what he does and you see him make plays all the time with his feet and avoid just getting out of the pocket when things break down and throwing down the field.”

* Okung on enigmatic Seattle tailback Marshawn Lynch: “He has a great sense of humor, but he is who he is. It’s kind of hard to explain him, but Marshawn is a great guy … he’s a great teammate and a great person as well. He loves his community, he loves his teammates and he’s always very supportive.”

* Okung on his charitable work with young students: “I have the Russell Okung UP Foundation and it’s pretty much me wanting to give back, give back to the children and use where I’m at to really see these children become who they are. What we do is we equip them with all sorts of school supplies and the things they need and we mentor them, we help them with scholarship applications. We’re pretty much trying to help facilitate these children in their growth even as they go into high school as well. It’s been very effective in the Seattle and Houston areas and we’re just trying to move all over the place.”

 


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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