BRADY HENDERSON

Rocky Seto leaves Seahawks for ministry with gratitude for Pete Carroll: ‘We’re friends for life’

Feb 2, 2017, 6:05 AM
Rocky Seto began working with Pete Carroll in 2001 and followed him to Seattle in 2010. (AP)...
Rocky Seto began working with Pete Carroll in 2001 and followed him to Seattle in 2010. (AP)
(AP)
LISTEN: Rocky Seto on leaving the Seahawks for the ministry

Rocky Seto spent the last seven seasons on the Seahawks’ coaching staff and the previous nine with Pete Carroll at USC. The relationships he formed during those 16 years, with Carroll in particular, were the reason he got emotional when the team met the day after its playoff loss to Atlanta last month. That’s when Seto, a devout Christian, announced he was leaving to become a pastoral minister.

“I broke down twice,” Seto told Dori Monson on KIRO Radio 97.3 FM on Wednesday, “talking to the staff when I started mentioning what a privilege it was to serve under Coach, and then once to the team as well. I think that was the most emotional part about it. I was grateful Coach gave me an opportunity to say a few words to the team and I was able to express to them what was deepest in my heart and out of my love for them I just basically shared the gospel, preached the gospel to them …”

That will be his new profession.

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Seto, 40, said he had thought since childhood about one day joining the ministry. That thought went from the back of his mind to the front of it over the last seven years. During that time, he’s followed Carroll from USC, his alma mater, to Seattle, where he started as a quality control coach in 2010 and worked his way up to assistant head coach/defense, a title he held the last two seasons.

Seto called it a “ridiculous dream come true” to be able to coach football for 18 seasons (he started at USC two years before Carroll arrived). But while he was overcome with emotion as he told the Seahawks he was leaving, he said the decision he made to do so wasn’t that hard. The pull to become a minister was that strong.

“Something was growing in me, the compulsion, the conviction, the desire to preach and teach the word of God, the Bible,” he said. “I’d been thinking about it and this year it was crystal clear.”

It wasn’t a total surprise to Carroll when Seto informed him after the team’s regular-season finale that he was leaving. Being as close as he is with Carroll, he said he had talked with him numerous times in recent years about possibly becoming a minister one day.

“I adore the man,” Seto said. “He’s my coaching mentor. We’re friends for life. I absolutely adore him and his family and care deeply about him. He’s been such a huge blessing in our whole family’s life.”

Seto described it as a calling to teach and preach the Bible. He was able to in his free time, but NFL coaches don’t have much of that, especially during the season. He wanted to do it full-time.

“They allowed me to go into prisons to preach to prisoners, and schools, into all kinds of different churches. It was incredible. It was incredible,” Seto said. “But I was performing more as an evangelist, just preaching the gospel, which is the most powerful message, the good news of Jesus Christ. But I had a desire to preach the Bible to a group of people for a length of time and to really shepherd and care for a group of people intensely and essentially focus on the ministry of Jesus Christ by teaching the Bible.

“Football was a vehicle to do that, but it wasn’t an all-consuming thing. It was mostly football. It almost seemed like I did football in order to do the preaching aspect of it, if that makes sense. Of course, I did it to support my family, too.  But if I had to decide how I wanted to spend my waking hours from the time I woke up to the time I went to bed, would I rather be analyzing film or would I rather me analyzing the Bible and discipling people on a full-time basis? I just had a compulsion and really a calling from the Lord himself to teach and preach the Bible and disciple as many people as possible.”

That will mean, among other things, sacrificing the financial security of a six-figure coaching income. He said that will be an adjustment for his family. Seto has a wife and four young children.

“It is a blessing,” he said. “To be part of the Seattle Seahawks and the 12s, I’ve never experienced anything like this before. That just added to the richness of the experience for me and my family. There was a cost to doing this. It isn’t just like, ‘Oh, we leave something horrible for something else.’ We left something really good, really good, (for) what we believe is something even better, something even greater because we’ve been called to do this.”

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Rocky Seto leaves Seahawks for ministry with gratitude for Pete Carroll: ‘We’re friends for life’