Renton, Wash. ( Associated Press) — Before taking the stand, KJ Wright was confident he had kept his emotions in check.
Less than two minutes passed before the first tears spilled.
“I gave every ounce to this sport I had in my body. I gave it my heart and my soul. I risked my body, sacrificed my personal life. It’s fair to say that I myself has been evacuated,” Wright said on Thursday.
The veteran, who played 11 years in the NFL, announced his retirement a day after signing a one-day deal with the Seahawks to retire with the team that drafted him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft.
He became an activist for one of the greatest teams in Seattle history. He was selected to the Pro Bowl and represented one of the key pieces of the Seahawks’ defense.
Wright’s emotional 25 minutes included calling his mother, father and wife from the same stage to express their appreciation. He directly thanked Seattle general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll, his former teammates, coordinators, staff and physical coaches for helping him in his career.
Wright arrived in Seattle before the Seahawks became the big NFC team. He played back-to-back Super Bowls and won the first title in franchise history, one of the strongest defenses in living memory.
In achieving those titles, Wright was instrumental. And while others have come and gone on the team, Wright stayed.
“He will always have a special place here,” Carroll said.
Wright said that, of all his seasons, he is most proud of the one he played in 2018, when a knee problem forced him to play only five games. He was convinced that his career was about to end.
He was also concerned about his future for the 2020 campaign. He had undergone shoulder surgery just before the pandemic hit. With few rehab options, he was concerned that he might not be physically close.
It didn’t just happen. He started in all 16 matches.