Class Of '99 - Long Live The King???

Lamar King (Getty Images)

Aaron Burtner reminisces, reflects and ruminates on Lamar King - the poster child for a draft most Seahawk fans would rather forget.

In case you hadn’t heard (or didn’t care), former Seahawks first round pick Lamar King signed a free agent contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week.

Which brings to mind the age-old question . . . if a tree falls in the forest and no one hears it, does it make a sound?

Yes, King’s signing may have amounted to little more than blip on the radar of national, and even regional news, but it does bring to an end the dreaded Seahawks’ Class Of ’99, a draft class that may go down as one of the worst in team history.

How bad was it? Well, it’s always an interesting exercise to review who the Seahawks passed up in trading down from #17 to #20, then from #20 to #22, essentially trading C/G Damien Woody for Lamar King, Karsten Bailey, Floyd Wedderburn and Steve Johnson. Would the Seahawks make that trade again? Who knows…but when you consider the players left behind by the team after King’s pick, the hindsight can get nasty. In this case we could’ve used our first three picks for Al Wilson, Marty Booker and Mike McKenzie . . . all players that could’ve made an impact on our roster. This would be anathema to any newer fans spoiled by the Seahawks’ recent excellent drafts.

King’s career itself started inauspiciously. As the only Division 2 player in history to be drafted in the first round, he was the personal pick of the late Fritz Shurmur. As if making the jump from Saginaw Valley State to the NFL wasn’t enough, King proceeded to hold out, missing valuable training time with Shurmur and the Seahawks coaching staff. That missed time proved to be even more detrimental to King’s development when, in August, Shurmur passed away.

Still, by the end of his rookie year, King was starting for the Seahawks and was looking like a promising player. And with the sudden decline of Michael Sinclair and the cap-mandated departure of Phillip Daniels, we needed King to fulfill his considerable potential. Unfortunately, that rookie season may have been the last time Lamar King and “promising” would be used in the same sentence.

Oh sure, we would hear reports from camps every year abut how dominating King looked, what great physical shape he was in, how dedicated he was . . . but by 2001 it was becoming obvious that a series of injuries and changeovers in defensive coordinators had taken it’s toll on Lamar. He had ballooned to over 320 pounds, and his speed and burst were a thing of the past. But the real nail in the coffin was his inability to stay healthy and contribute on the field on a regular basis.

King’s plane flight to Disney World marks the end of the rookie contracts for that 1999 draft, coach Mike Holmgren’s first as Seattle General Manager (a title he has since relinquished). Out of the 7 players selected in that draft, only 2 remain with the club. And even those two are on shaky ground this summer.

Fellow defensive end Antonio Cochran outperformed King throughout much of his career, and signed a lucrative 4 year contract with the team last year. His play in 2003 however was disappointing, and with the signing of Grant Wistrom, Cochran is in a reserve role and likely fighting for a roster spot.

Quarterback Brock Huard started a few games for the Hawks back in 2000, but his durability became a question mark and when the Hawks signed Trent Dilfer, Huard was granted a trade. After 2 years in Indianapolis in which Huard rarely played, he resigned with the Hawks this year and will be fighting for the emergency quarterback spot.

The other picks were even less noteworthy. Karsten Bailey never lived up to the hype, and was last seen fighting for a roster spot with the Green Bay Packers. Floyd Wedderburn imploded under the weight of his own body, and Charles Rogers has been shuttled around the league as a kick returner and is currently battling some personal demons. Steve Johnson will remain a trivia question, as he never made it out of training camp his rookie year. Did you know we actually traded up to draft Johnson?

It’s hard to say if that ’99 class really is the worst in Seahawk history. There were a few drafts in the early 90’s that rival, if not eclipse, Holmgren’s first bunch in ineptitude. But as Lamar King puts on the pads to face the Hawks on September 19th, he is sure to have a chip on his shoulder.

I hope he can forgive us all if we don’t notice.

Aaron Burtner is a regular contributor to Seahawks.NET. Feel free to send him feedback here.

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