Cliff Avril on his path from the cellar to football's highest peak

NFL Media's Oklahoma Drill series presents exclusive, quick-hitting one-on-one interviews with players and coaches from around the league. No nonsense -- just football experiences directly from the source.

Cliff Avril

Defensive end, Seattle Seahawks

Born: April 8, 1986

Experience: Nine NFL seasons

Interview by Nick Shook | May 9, 2017

It took a while for me to get around to that point of just starting a foundation, but I've always, since I've been in the league, found different ways of getting into the community by getting kids active, by football camps and different things like that. As far as starting my own foundation and getting things going, I think it just clicked at one point in my life. It was like, Dude, you need to be doing more. You need to be getting awareness out about different things and support people that can't do things for themselves. I'd say about five years ago is when I kind of changed my view of how I wanted to help.

Both of my parents are from Haiti. It's been a long time since I actually had gone but I knew -- obviously, everybody knows about the earthquake and all the different things they've been going through -- I just felt like it was time for me to go back and do some things for my people, essentially.

I did a "Tackle My Ride" thing. It was a fan in Seattle that basically would grow his hair out just to donate it to cancer patients. Huge, huge fan and had a beat-up truck and he's such a fan, he actually changed his middle name to Seahawk. To be able to be a part of that whole process, to be able to give him a new car pimped out with Seahawks stuff everywhere and to recognize people who never get any recognition for their charitable work is pretty cool to be a part of.

Start my career off 0-16. It was crazy, man. Honestly, I didn't realize how terrible we were until after the season. I'm a rookie; I'm just trying to figure things out. I'm just trying to get on the field. I'm trying to make an impact and not be the reason why you're losing. I'm like, Look man, you gotta go get these sacks. You gotta put good film out, and I knew we were getting a new head coach the following year.

To me, it was like, Hey, it's do or die right now. You've got to make things happen. I wasn't processing how terrible we were, [but] more so, me not being the reason why we're so terrible. It was a crazy year. It's weird when you can be in the NFL and you're embarrassed to tell people you're in the NFL.

[I felt disrespected by contract offers], for sure. But you know what, I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Going 0-16 kind of molded me in a sense of understanding what the NFL was really about, because the new head coaches came in [and] they want their players, they kind of don't want to be associated with the 0-16 guys, so it showed me how cutthroat the NFL was. It kind of molded me to be able to take everything with a grain of salt from the standpoint of understanding what these coaches are telling you sometimes isn't what really is going on.

So going from that to being able to win the Super Bowl, it was one of those things where it was like through all of the losing, you still continue to keep getting better and having faith and work hard, now you're able to actually be the last one standing. You kind of laugh at the same time, I guess, because nobody's ever been able to [go from playing on an 0-16 team to winning a Super Bowl], to be able to go from that to that within six, seven years just shows that you've got to keep chopping away no matter what the situation is.

It was a great experience, but I was just getting things going. I was understanding the game of football more, I was understanding how to be a pass rusher, how to break [down] film, just understanding how to be a pro. And then to see everything kind of playing itself out and being a part of it, not just being on the team but being a part of it, being a key player that's contributing to the wins, it's pretty cool.

What sold me on going to Seattle? They already had a great defense. The L.O.B. (Legion of Boom) was already formed before I got there, so selfishly as a pass rusher, I was like, I'll get more time to get after the quarterback. That was one of the main things, honestly, is being able to get after the quarterback and my surrounding cast is a big part of that.

[Playing for Pete Carroll] is pretty cool. As long as you go about your business, as long as you be a pro and you work hard, it's smooth. I feel like honestly, everything's always good when you're winning. The coaches are extremely cool, laid back as long as you're winning and doing your job. [Carroll] allows me to be myself. He doesn't ask too much of me from a standpoint of -- I'm not a big rah-rah guy. Me, being a veteran, he's not pulling that out of me. He allows me to just lead by example more so than spazzing out on youngsters.

I'm not shocked [by Dan Quinn's success in Atlanta] because when he went there -- DQ is my guy -- I was happy for him because he went with an offense that's already intact. You've got a great player in Matty Ice, you've got Julio Jones and then you draft [Devonta] Freeman, so you've got a lot of great moving parts on offense. DQ knows what it takes to get a defense going. He was a part of assembling all of us, me, Mike Bennett, [etc.]. He was part of the reason why we won the Super Bowl, so to see him put this team together is not shocking to me because he already kind of had the recipe.

When I went to Purdue, I was an outside linebacker for two seasons. Then my junior year, when it's supposed to be one of your breakout years or whatever, the coaches pulled me over like, "Hey, we think we want you on third down. We want to put you at third-down defensive end to help Anthony Spencer out." I'm like, "Uhh, OK cool." I haven't pass rushed in a couple of years but I think I could do it. And then they're like, "OK, we want you full time at defensive end," and I kid you not, I fought it for like six weeks. [I remember saying], "I don't want to be down here. I want to be down there at 7 on 7. I don't want to be down here pass rushing." But my coach was like, "Look, if you're going to go to the NFL, this is probably your best chance." And then, I kind of got comfortable, learned from Anthony Spencer and it's kind of been a wrap since then.

I was like, "Y'all are trying to sabotage my career" because I had just started ballin' at linebacker and then they made the move. But again, everything happens for a reason.

Toughest tackle that I've faced? I will give it to, when I was in Detroit, what's the boy in Minnesota a few years back? ... Bryant McKinnie. When I first got into the league, he was a beast. Big dude, athletic, he was clicking on all cylinders at that time.

Favorite game that I've played in and I can't say the Super Bowl? The NFC Championship Game before Super Bowl [XLVIII], because I think that was really the Super Bowl for us. That was an amazing game. Crazy, it was crazy. They're our rivals, they had a great team. It was just a fun game. Had me a sack fumble, a few hits. It was a great win as a team.

I wouldn't mind [going into broadcasting]. I like it. Five years ago, you probably couldn't have gotten me to actually be as comfortable as I am doing this, but I definitely like it. I enjoy it. My wife said I'm doing OK, so that means a lot.

We've got two boys, a 5 year old and a 1 year old. It's amazing, it's the best thing ever. Winning the Super Bowl and all that stuff is cool, but being a dad, it really is a wonderful feeling. Especially to see a human being like my oldest, he looks like me, he acts like me. A lot of the time I can't even get mad at him for some of the stuff he does because I'm like I do the same thing.

I have bad habits. Obviously, my charity work is a big thing to me, but I'm also into watches. I'm a big watch guy. [I have] probably six or seven or eight, maybe. [The go-to brand is] Rolex. You can't go wrong with Rolex. They've been around the longest, they hold their value the most. That's the biggest thing is knowing a good watch that will actually hold its value through the years.

Jewelry is one thing, but actually knowing what you're getting yourself into -- I research for three, four weeks before I purchase a watch, just trying to make sure. They're not cheap, so you better make sure you're not literally wasting your money. I'm not just buying it because it's just "in."

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