SI Vault
The pass is prologue
Ron Reid
November 20, 1978
Things are looking up in Seattle, where the Zorn-to-Largent aerial circus has made the Seahawks a worthy opponent
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
November 20, 1978

The Pass Is Prologue

Things are looking up in Seattle, where the Zorn-to-Largent aerial circus has made the Seahawks a worthy opponent

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue
1 2

Largent, who relies more on guileful moves than burning speed to get open, led the nation in touchdown pass receptions his last two years at Tulsa, then was drafted in the fourth round in 1976 by Houston. The Oilers paid little notice to him in camp, however, writing him off as being too slow. Jerry Rhome, now the club's offensive coordinator, was the coach of Seattle's quarterbacks and receivers that season. He had been an assistant at Tulsa when Largent was catching all those TD passes, and Rhome no doubt saw another Howard Twilley in him. Rhome broke 16 NCAA passing records when he played for Tulsa in the early '60s, and Twilley was his No. 1 target. Labeled as "too slow" by pro scouts, Twilley was only a 12th-round draft pick by the Miami Dolphins. He played with the Dolphins for 11 seasons. In any event, Seattle acquired Largent from Houston for a "future draft choice," which turned out to be an eighth-round selection in 1977.

Largent caught 87 passes for 1,348 yards and 14 touchdowns in his first two seasons with Seattle. In 1977 he averaged 19.5 yards a reception, third best in the AFC.

Zorn won the job as Seattle's No. 1 quarterback in the Seahawks' very first exhibition game when he came off the bench to turn a 24-0 wipeout by the San Francisco 49ers into a 27-20 shoot-out. Zorn went on to be the NFC's Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1976 ( Seattle has now been shifted to the AFC), and has started 35 of the Seahawks' 39 regular-season games.

He missed four games last season after suffering a knee injury while trying to tackle Cincinnati's Lemar Parrish along the sideline, Parrish having intercepted one of his passes. "I learned a great lesson while sitting out those four weeks," says Zorn, who knows he should have tried to shove Parrish out of bounds. "I've got to be more intelligent than that. I lost my temper, and I learned a lot. It was good for me to sit out because I found out that I don't like sitting out."

For Zorn, life in the pocket has been easier this season than in the past, because of the development of the Sea-hawks' young line. He is extremely mobile, though, and never hesitates to run with the ball himself. "I've got one great ability," he says. "I can get out of a tough situation when the pocket collapses."

After Zorn ran the Lions wild with his scrambles and passes in Seattle's 28-16 win in September, Detroit Defensive Tackle Doug English said, "The thing I can't comprehend about Zorn is the way he can pinpoint his passes when he's on the dead run. The game would have turned out a lot differently if they weren't right on the money. I got to say that the guy is a super quarterback."

While Zorn appreciates such accolades, he tries to pay them little notice. "I never envisioned anything like what's been happening," he says. "You just can't conceive of it. I never got down once that first season when we won only two games, because I was having so much fun out there. I'm still having fun now that we're winning more games, too. But what I don't understand is all the publicity. It's really wild. Why should I get all the publicity? I'm glad our team is getting it, but me individually? I'm only a reflection of what our team is."

Throughout the Northwest, and even up in Anchorage, where the Seahawks have an Alaska fan club, Zorn is admired for his character as much as his football skills. He personally answers all his fan mail, including letters from kids that ask, "Can I have your torn jersey?" ("No, it goes back to the equipment man.") Zorn also thanks reporters for interviewing him, and he is so unselfish with his time that only recently has he become selective about speaking engagements. The requests are numerous; Zorn could give a speech a day for the next six months in the Seattle area alone.

Largent says, "The personality of our team is directly related to the age of our players. We're a loose, young, enthusiastic team that's building confidence in itself. We've got kind of a fragile makeup right now, but the more we win, the more confidence we get."

There are a lot of Seattleites who will drink to that.

1 2