Super Bowl XLIX  

 

Kam Chancellor: Seattle's enforcer, motivator and so much more

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PHOENIX -- Rocky Seto, the Seattle Seahawks' defensive passing game coordinator, likes to describe Kam Chancellor by colliding his two balled fists in rapid succession. Kam is his enforcer. He allows Seto to illustrate and design his game plans, sparing Seto the traditional lethargy suffered by defensive coordinators without a muse like Chancellor.

He is an endless source of twisted amusement.

"Remember that hit Ronnie Lott laid on Ickey Woods in the Super Bowl?" Seto asks, citing one of the more memorable collisions in football history.

He goes one step further, referencing the powder-charged blast Steve Atwater delivered to Christian Okoye. You know, the hit heard 'round the world.

"(Kam) reminds you of those," Seto said.

But when asked to dig deeper, to really unearth the core of his enforcer, Seto points to a neon green rubber band on his wrist. Kam is a monster, no doubt. On Sunday, he will be one of the most bothersome hurdles for New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and coach Bill Belichick to game plan around. There is a chance Super Bowl XLIX could turn on the drop of his shoulder.

But Kam is also one of the most thoughtful, sensitive people Seto has ever met.

On the band sat the secondary's traditional moniker: "L.O.B.," which originally stood for "The Legion Of Boom." Only Chancellor had changed the definition. He revealed his new slogan the night before the 6-4 Seahawks faced off against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 12.

With Seattle's title defense not going as planned and an undeniable rift cracking the locker room in half, Chancellor declared the famous, self-serving nickname dead for the moment. L.O.B. now stood for "Love Our Brothers," and everyone had no choice but to get on board.

Within days, coach Pete Carroll had the bands made and placed one in every locker and desk in the building.

"He's the one that taught this to the team," Seto said. "I don't think we were ready to hear it at the time, either. But he took us back to this Biblical principle.

"It was more than a saying. It turned our whole season around."

* * * * *

Chancellor's coaches were thankful that, even as a freshman in his first few weeks at Virginia Tech, the boy had the kind of sensibility and perspective that Seto brags about today.

He was a productive if underappreciated prep quarterback at Maury High School in Norfolk, Virginia. He was set to attend Division I-AA James Madison before receiving the only real interest he'd get from an FBS school.

He was Cam Newton without the touch on his throws. Or maybe he was Logan Thomas without the velocity.

The experiment didn't last long, though. Chancellor accepted his permanent role as a rover in the Hokies' defense with grace. This is where he belonged.

"His passing skills left a little to be desired, and you can tell him I said that," Mike O'Cain, who was then Virginia Tech's quarterbacks coach, told NFL.com in a phone interview this week with a laugh.

O'Cain sat back and watched the show from there. Chancellor, who once depended on one square meal a day at school while his mother worked three jobs to provide for a bustling family of six, was eating like a maniac with an unlimited dining plan. He was putting on 10 pounds at a time and thickening into a force on the practice field.

The tradition is for coaches to not worry about injuries in practice -- that only complicates matters. But what happens when the rover is lurking?

"I'll never forget it," O'Cain said. "He would make these tremendous hits in practice. It wasn't fun to go against him every spring."

Even at the height of his productivity in college, he was seldom mentioned among the best at his position. In the 2010 NFL Draft, nine safeties -- including Darrell Stuckey, Chad Jones, Major Wright, Morgan Burnett, Taylor Mays and Nate Allen -- went before him.

Chancellor was used to working for it, though. He was sweeping up a barber shop at age 10 to pad his mother's income. This was nothing.

"He's always been an old soul," Seahawks defensive backs coach Kris Richard said. "He's always been big brother from Day 1. And it's just awesome to see all of his hard work, his faith, his discipline all come to fruition. It couldn't have happened to a better man."

* * * * *

The Patriots are worried about the enforcer.

Ask a sampling of assistant coaches, and almost everyone has Chancellor to thank for an extended headache.

Here's offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo: "You better account for him. I'm lucky I work with very smart people. Honestly. Receivers coach, tight ends coach, quarterbacks coach -- they all work with the understanding that you have to handle a hard-hitting safety like he is. The bottom line is, he's the best at what he does."

Receivers coach Chad O'Shea: "His ability to play the run and the pass ... we know that. It's on film. It is what it is."

And McDaniels: "Any challenge you want to name, this guy provides it. He's a player we have to account for on every single snap of the game. People want to ask us what kind of formation we're going to line up in -- we want to know the same thing about them."

It's almost as if Chancellor is the tipping point, the one piece that rounds the unit into total efficiency. A good cover corner can be beat. A good corner and safety can still only blanket so much of the field. But add a bulky linebacker/corner/safety hybrid to the mix, and every snap begins to get uncomfortable.

"He's a great example of all the guys on their defense," McDaniels said. "This is as good a unit as we've faced in years."

* * * * *

Seattle has not lost a game since Chancellor made his speech and Carroll produced the bands. The defense has yielded an average of just 9.75 points per contest in that span, and the offense has regained its footing.

The bands swing on the wrists of most players as a reminder of where they were, and what an emergence from a hazy collapse feels like.

But for Seto, it's also a reminder that his enforcer, his monster, his killer is so much more than that.

"From that moment on, we grabbed on to this principle: 'Love Our Brothers,' " he said. "Loving each other, being there for each other. Being a better teammate. Praise the Lord; that turned the season around."

Follow Conor Orr on Twitter @ConorTOrr.

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