When former Seahawks offensive lineman Walter Jones received the email asking if he wanted to be an ambassador for the 2018 Special Olympics USA Games, he did not hesitate. “I said ‘yes’ with capital letters,” said the Pro Bowler.
Jones was one of 58 athletes—and four former Seahawks—who served as ambassadors to the July event. I met them before they spoke to flag football teams from around the country.
Jim Zorn was the Seahawks’ first quarterback, back in the 1970s, and he got his start with Special Olympics Washington during his playing days. Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, a teammate of Zorn’s, got involved with Special Olympics Oklahoma before he arrived in Seattle in 1976.
During Jones’ 12-year career with the Seahawks, he made nine Pro Bowl appearances as an offensive lineman. Each player chosen for the Pro Bowl is asked to make a difference in their community. During Jones’ first appearance, he chose to work with Special Olympics and fell in love with the organization, working with them at future Pro Bowls and during the offseason.
Finally, Brock Huard, the former Seahawks and University of Washington Huskies quarterback and a current ESPN college football analyst, has made his involvement with Special Olympics a family affair. He explained that he has volunteered with his wife and kids at Special Olympics Washington events, including bowling and track and field.
Part of the ambassador’s job is to put a face on the Special Olympics movement, whether at a state, national, or worldwide event. This means supporting fundraising efforts, recruiting volunteers, and attending events that promote and support Special Olympics. During the Games, the ambassadors aim to encourage and inspire athletes.
Zorn, Largent, Jones, and Huard are all from different places and backgrounds but were united by football. When speaking to eight teams at the conclusion of a morning session of games, they encouraged players to use football, a common interest, to make lasting friendships with players from other teams. They also spoke about persistence, teamwork, fun, and the importance of learning from mistakes. Specifically, Jones hoped everyone “learned how to compete and make friends from other places,” and Largent hoped they could feel “the thrill of victory.”
Looking towards the future, Zorn hoped the Games would “help people come together… especially when it comes to pulling different kinds of people together for one common goal.”
At the end of the day, the former pros were all honored to be ambassadors and have had memorable experiences helping to promote inclusivity and diversity locally. Each jumped at the opportunity to work at a national level for the first time and had a great time advancing Special Olympics’ mission.
Top photograph by Hayden Goldberg