RENTON, WASH. (AP) - Leroy Hill looks back on his rookie season six years ago with the Seattle Seahawks and knows it couldn’t have gone more perfect: starting as a rookie on a dominant team that concluded its season with the only Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.
The surprise isn’t so much what’s happened to the Seahawks since losing a Super Bowl to Pittsburgh 21-10 that year, but that Hill is just one of two players remaining on Seattle’s roster that played in that title game against the Steelers.
Faces like Matt Hasselbeck, Lofa Tatupu, Shaun Alexander and Walter Jones, all key components of that Super Bowl run, are elsewhere, while Hill and cornerback Marcus Trufant remain as the only survivors with Seattle heading to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
“You lose a Super Bowl … and it’s so hard to get back. I realize that now,” Hill said. “I remember every play of that game almost and they still have got a lot of the same guys. Playing Pittsburgh, it’s always ‘they beat us in the Super Bowl’ but a lot of these guys don’t understand it because they weren’t on that team. But I feel it.”
Hill and Trufant remain as the only links to the Seahawks lone NFC championship team. The coaching staff, the front office and most of the locker room has gone through the revolving door of Seattle’s waterfront headquarters.
“I don’t know if it’s shocking. That’s just how the business can throw you sometimes,” Trufant said. “You get guys in and you get guys out and that’s just how it is. You’ve just got to be able to roll with it and just got to be able to go ball.”
Trufant was already established by the time Seattle faced the Steelers for the title in Detroit. He’d been Seattle’s starting cornerback from nearly the moment he was drafted 11th overall out of Washington State in 2003. It’s a position he still holds now in his ninth season, through coaching changes, front office changes and other players brought in to challenge the veteran cornerback.
Asked if the Super Bowl loss to Pittsburgh really feels like it happened nearly a half-dozen years ago, Trufant simply smiled and said, “it kind of flies by.”
“Years fly by and that’s why you’ve got to really enjoy it,” he said. “You’ve got to put your time in and you’ve got to go 100 percent because before you know it the years just fly by.”
That Hill is the other cohort still hanging around is a testament to need and perseverance. Since going to the Super Bowl as a rookie, Hill’s faced numerous off field problems and injury issues. He was arrested on marijuana and domestic violence charges, was suspended by the league and missed most of the 2010 season with an Achilles’ injury.
Seattle took a chance bringing Hill back for the 2011 season on a one-year deal in the hopes the fact he’s only played 24 games over the previous three seasons could work in Seattle’s favor.
But the Super Bowl year as a rookie remains vivid.
“I’m settling in to the league and to pull off (11) straight wins … rookie year and for me to be starting and to be a part of that and contribute to a team going to the Super Bowl in my very first year, it was unreal,” Hill said. “I thought every year was going to be like that.”
Hill and Trufant will see one more reminder of the Super Bowl on Sunday with Bill Leavy refereeing the game. Leavy was the referee for that Super Bowl and acknowledged last summer during an annual training-camp rules interpretation session with the Seattle media that he made mistakes in Seattle’s disputed loss to the Steelers.