JERSEY CITY, N.J. (AP) — Marquand Manuel took a step back. All he wanted to do was watch the celebration.
Eight years ago, Manuel — then a safety for Seattle — was joyous on the field after the Seahawks reached their first Super Bowl by beating the Carolina Panthers in the NFC title game.
So when the Seahawks were back celebrating again two Sunday’s ago after beating San Francisco, the enjoyment for Manuel was just in watching.
“The easiest thing is to make sure the guys cherish the moment,” said Manuel, now an assistant defensive coach for the Seahawks on Pete Carroll’s staff. “It’s not about what you did yesterday, it’s about what you did today.”
Manuel has a unique distinction as Sunday’s Super Bowl against Denver approaches. Manuel is the only player or coach who was on Seattle’s only other Super Bowl team that lost to Pittsburgh 21-10 in Detroit in February 2006.
And for Manuel there is a feeling of coming full circle because the other time he went to the Super Bowl with Seattle, he was left watching and not by choice.
“I never got hurt,” Manuel said. “And it happened.”
It was midway through the second quarter when Manuel was injured tackling Pittsburgh’s Hines Ward on an 18-yard, end-around run. Manuel appeared to get tangled up with equipment beyond the sideline boundary at the end of his tackle.
That left former practice squad player Etric Pruitt as Seattle’s free safety for the final 2½ quarters. Pruitt, then in his second season from Southern Mississippi, was signed to the active roster in November that season and had played in 11 career games. And Manuel knew immediately after Willie Parker raced 75 yards for a touchdown early in the third quarter to give Pittsburgh a 14-3 lead that Seattle was in trouble.
“I get hurt 8 minutes into the second quarter on a fluke play that I’ve made a million times and I’m not able to come back. (The) 75-yard run doesn’t happen. The halfback pass never happens. Now you’re talking about a 14-10 game which is totally different. Now it’s a slugfest and the best team wins and I would have put money on our offense to score points,” Manuel said. “From that standpoint it always sat with me. It always sat with me that if I ever had the opportunity; and that’s what I try and instill to the players is take advantage of it because it’s been eight years and I’m just getting back and it’s not promised to anybody.”
Manuel had gotten a chance to start that season after Ken Hamlin was lost for the season because of head injuries sustained during a fight outside a Seattle nightclub in October. But the ending in the Super Bowl was also Manuel’s ending in Seattle. He went on to play for Green Bay, Carolina, Denver and Detroit before retiring after the 2009 season.
Coaching had always been a thought — his nickname in the locker room was coach — but what happened in the Super Bowl crystalized that Manuel wanted to help instruct the next generation of players.
It’s an odd stroke of coincidence that he ended up with the Seahawks. He was working as a coaching intern during the 2011 season at his alma mater of Florida, then jumped at the chance to join the Seahawks as an assistant special teams coach in 2012. He started working with the defense this season.
“I didn’t think I would be drawn to it as much as I was at the end of my career,” Manuel said. “It’s like a teacher and you’re not just teaching guys based on your knowledge and your experience but you’re learning to learn and seeing guys who have trouble and you can visualize those things. I think that’s the part that’s the most joyous for me.”
Not surprising, he’s been a sounding board for his players since beating San Francisco. Manuel and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. are the only coaches with Super Bowl playing experience.
“Most of our conversations have been done way prior to this, leading up to the type of season we want to have,” Norton said. “The guys are really, really good, they’re really mature, they listen well, but they have really taken it all in. they understand the hard work they have done to get to this point and they’re really enjoying it but again they’re really focused on playing football.”
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