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Clayton: How I connected with Chuck Knox while covering the Seahawks

Chuck Knox and John Clayton both found themselves at Seahawks headquarters in the 1980s after growing up in Western Pennsylvania. (AP)

The passing of Chuck Knox over the weekend created so many opportunities for players, coaches and reporters to discuss what Knox meant to the Seahawks franchise and the fans.

Knox was a winner. He had a strong presence and knew how to make a franchise successful. He did it with the Los Angeles Rams, Buffalo Bills and the Seahawks. His style was no-nonsense, but it worked.

I moved to the Seattle area in 1986 to cover the Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. One of the attractions was covering Chuck Knox’s teams. What helped was we talked the same language – we both grew up in Western Pennsylvania, Chuck coming from Sewickley while I grew up in Braddock.

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These were tough towns, but growing up where we grew up, we all learned you needed to work hard to be successful. Knox worked hard. He brought the Ground Chuck approach to football. He wanted a hard-running team that was accompanied by a good defense.

The formula was successful.

I always loved the beginning of training camp. Knox would take his cap and turn it backward so he could get with the offensive linemen and bang a few heads. He joked to employees that he got a few headaches as a result.

No doubt, his head-on approach got the attention of his blockers. “Ground Chuck” needed offensive linemen to be at their best.

One of the advantages of covering the Seahawks back then was the location of the press room. It was the first office as you entered the headquarters at Northwest College in Kirkland. I had the seat that had a great view of the parking lot.

That was important because I would wait each day until Knox walked to his car. When he would leave the building, I would follow him and try to fire out a few questions to keep up on the news of the team. Knox was great at dealing with the media and would stop and give the appropriate answers.

I still remember chasing him to his car the day the Seahawks drafted Dan McGwire. The Seahawks wanted to pick a quarterback in the first round and had three choices: McGwire, Browning Nagle or Brett Favre. Management went to owner Ken Behring and asked him to break a tie among the decision-makers. Behring favored McGwire, figuring at 6 foot 8 the team would be getting more for their investment in McGwire.

I went to Chuck and asked him what he thought. He told me he wanted the quarterback from Mississippi: Favre. Had the Seahawks drafted Favre, Knox might have made the elusive Super Bowl he tried for every year.

One funny anecdote involving Chuck was when I drove to Sewickley to see where he was raised. He talked about his humble beginning, and you could see he indeed was raised humbly. What surprised me, though, was what was directly across the street from his childhood home – a Mercedes repair shop.

Clearly, that shop wasn’t there while Chuck was young, but it gave me something that I could come back to Seattle with and get a few laughs from him.

Chuck, we miss you.

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