Through all this success Largent has been able to keep his priorities straight and his life in order. He has been married almost 12 years to Terry, his high school sweetheart. Every Friday night is still Date Night at the Largent house; a couple of weeks ago they went to a Neil Diamond concert, then stopped at the Dairy Queen for a milk shake on the way home. Monday night is devoted to their children. No Monday Night Football for this crew unless Largent is playing in the game.
Largent is the highest-paid wide receiver in football—he negotiated his $800,000-a-year contract himself—yet he drives a Pontiac station wagon. On Tuesdays, his day off, he drives a Chevy van in a car pool for the First Baptist Church school.
"You're never as good or as bad as they say you are," says Largent, 32. "How significant or insignificant am I? In the context of eternity, my football achievements mean very little.
"To a large extent, my job consists of running downfield, beating a guy and catching a ball. In one-on-one defense anybody should be able to get open."
The Raiders' All-Pro cornerback Mike Haynes doesn't buy that. He believes Largent is anything but the common man. "He's the most deceptive receiver in football," Haynes says. "What makes him so special is that he'll change patterns to fit the situation. That's very unusual. It's almost as if the quarterback says to him in the huddle, 'Do whatever you want. Just get yourself open and I'll throw to you.' "
There was the time when he ran downfield with Lester Hayes, the Raiders' All-Pro cornerback, in hot pursuit. Largent stopped, spun completely around and then took off across the middle to catch the ball. Then there's his signature move, the one where he leans so far in one direction that he looks as if he's going to topple over. But he doesn't. Without warning, he zips off in the other direction. "Steve is the master of tomfoolery," Hayes says. "He has run pass routes on me that I've never ever seen or dreamed about."
What separates Largent from other receivers are his quick feet and strong ankles. He is able to change direction quickly when he's running patterns, and he executes those changes at top speed. In addition he has a keen sense of balance; his smallish (5'11", 190 pounds), thick-legged build and his medium stride work to his advantage.
But Largent believes his biggest asset is his concentration. For example, according to records kept by the Seahawk coaches on "makable catches," Largent caught 95% of the passes thrown to him last year. Put it another way: He dropped only five balls.
"We went pheasant hunting in Kansas one year, right after Christmas," says Larry Guerkink, Largent's close friend and his baseball coach at Putnam City High in Oklahoma City. "We were out in a wheat field, and Steve turned to me and asked. 'What do you look at when you shoot?' I said, 'I watch the bird.' And Steve said, 'You ought to watch the head.' Later I got to thinking about that. That pheasant is flying 30 or 40 miles per hour, 600 yards away, and Steve has the ability to pick out the head—not lose sight of it—and then shoot? That's incredible concentration."
Steve Largent was born in Tulsa on Sept. 28, 1954. He has a brother and a stepbrother; another brother died three years ago. When Steve was six his father left home, and soon after, his parents were divorced. Largent usually sees his father whenever the Seahawks come East to play. "When I introduce him to people, I call him Jim," Largent says. "There is no way I can call him Dad."