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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Thursday, August 31, 2000

Largent overcame
bump in road

STEVE Largent pulled his tee shot on the first hole at the Waialae Country Club yesterday, his drive skirting the trees to the left of the fairway.

"Pretty left for someone who's a Republican," yelled a spectator in the gallery.

The GOP congressman from Oklahoma and former Seattle Seahawks' all-pro wide receiver turned and smiled.

Largent is here with South Carolina Rep. Lindsey Graham to support the congressional campaign of former NFL star Russ Francis.

Apparently, not only do NFL players stick together, so do members of a political party.

Sports fans remember when Largent was last here. He was introduced as a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 1995. Prior to that, Largent played in six Pro Bowls at Aloha Stadium.

In Seattle, Largent was as identifiable as the Space Needle. He caught 819 passes for 13,089 yards, 100 touchdowns and had a string of 177 games with at least one catch -- all NFL records when he retired in 1989.

Now, he's one of the brightest stars on the GOP scene, one who should win re-election for his fourth term to the U.S. House of Representatives in November. It will be his last term, Largent said.

Although Largent hasn't made any commitment yet, Oklahomans -- especially Republicans -- believe he will be their next governor in 2002.

Two incredible accomplishments for someone who was cut after training camp by the Houston Oilers in his rookie year and never had any political ambitions.

"I didn't even run for student council in high school," Largent said.

Yet, when he retired after a brilliant 14-year career -- all with the Seahawks -- you knew it wouldn't be the last we'd hear of him.

If the NFL needed a good role model, as it sorely does these days, so did America. Especially someone who worked so hard and with dedication to achieve success.

"Football was a lot of fun and I wouldn't trade the 14 years I had in the NFL for anything," Largent said. "But in '94 I decided to run for Congress to try to make a difference, and try to make life better for my children and this country."

HOW he came to this stage in his life, is one of the great stories in the world of sports.

"It's been a fabulous journey," he said. But it started with a bump in the road.

Largent thought his NFL career was over six weeks after it started. A fourth-round draft pick out of his hometown University of Tulsa, Largent was waived by the Oilers.

He and his wife Terry -- they were married in college -- left training camp and drove back to Oklahoma, packing everything they had in a 5x7 U-Haul.

It was as low as he ever felt. But everything happens with a purpose, according to Largent.

The Seahawks acquired the rights to Largent and it turned out to be a perfect fit.

Jerry Rhome, Largent's college coach at Tulsa, was Seattle's quarterback and receivers coach. That made it an easier adjustment for Largent. The rest, as they say, is history.

As for Bum Phillips, the Oilers' coach who cut Largent, he doesn't want to talk about the error of his ways.

"If you talk to Bum Phillips today, he would say the most irritating question that people can ask him is, 'How can you trade Steve Largent for an eighth-round draft choice?'

"And every time I'm around him, he would be asked that question."

Largent still considers himself as the Seahawks' No. 1 fan and follows what they do.

"But we don't get a lot of coverage about the Seahawks in Tulsa."

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

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