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Jermaine Kearse: Representing the 253

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Every so often, you’ll hear an NFL television announcer imply that Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse is from Seattle. Sometimes they’ll get the Lakewood part correct, but treat the town as if it were a suburb of Seattle.

As a South Sounder it can drive a person crazy.

The big city up in the 206 already has a long list of homegrown sports heroes and they don’t need to be taking credit for a rising star that is absolutely from the 253.

Last year, the City of Lakewood celebrated “Jermaine Kearse Day” on April 12 and the crowds were huge. As a newly minted Super Bowl champion and one of the heroes of the 2013 NFC Championship game, it was a fitting gesture from the community. The former Lakes Lancer football star is always the first person to show respect and love to his hometown and the people of Lakewood and the feeling in this part of the Puget Sound is very much mutual.

Last Sunday, the kid from Lakewood caught his second game-winning NFC Championship game touchdown pass in a row. Two hands wrapped around a football in the end-zone and both times, the points sent the Seahawks to the Super Bowl. That is the sort of stuff that dreams are made of for any former first-round draft pick in the NFL. However, in Jermaine’s case he wasn’t drafted in the first round of the 2012 NFL Draft. As a matter of fact, when number 253, the final pick of the seventh round was read off, the former star from the University of Washington still didn’t hear his name called. It’s a worn-out term, but this Kearse story is becoming the stuff of Cinderella.

Kearse stayed close to home and tried to find a spot with the Seattle Seahawks as a free agent and nothing was guaranteed. In his first year with the Seahawks he saw limited time, catching just three passes for 31 yards, but saw his role expand as the season wore on toward the beginning of Seattle’s current three-year playoff run.

Now he’s on the cover of the newest issue of Sports Illustrated.

This is the type of rare air that sports legends like Ken Griffey Jr. used to fly around in and for years we were in awe. Now it’s happening to a young man from down here in our neck of the woods? Perhaps we’ll all look back 20 or 30 years from now and laugh about how this was all just the beginning of this fantastic ride.

As a lover of rollercoasters myself, the NFC Championship matchup with Green Bay on Sunday, Jan. 18 was probably the ultimate ride. The emotional swings throughout the game were staggering at times and made one briefly wonder why they put themselves through this amount of torture for just a “game.”

Of course, we know it’s much more than a game. It’s just about the most important thing in the world to many folks and I’m not going to say that’s not the case for me.

The Seahawks/Packers overtime thriller is merely days old now and it has already been deemed “legendary.” Down 16-0 at halftime, the Seahawks were not only looking at a loss to the Packers, but it looked as though it might get embarrassing before the day was over. Seahawk fans were losing their minds and trying very hard not to lose faith in this incredible team they’ve been a fan of for a week or 38 years.

Some folks indeed lost their faith and took to social media to vent their anger, hurt, frustration and pain. One of the main targets of this online barrage was none other than Jermaine Kearse. Some posts on Twitter and Facebook were so vicious that we can’t print them in the paper.

Of course it wasn’t all the fans, and probably was mostly made up of an upset few. But why were they so upset with Kearse?

The answer is quick and simple: four interceptions.

Quarterback Russell Wilson attempted five passes in Kearse’s direction throughout regulation play and four of the balls, two of which bounced off of Kearse’s hands, ended up intercepted by a Packers defender. Call it bad luck, bad timing or just four bad plays. However you slice it, the fickle fans were looking for a target and Kearse was the easy answer.

Of course, in a short matter of minutes the tide had turned and Kearse, along with Russell Wilson, was shedding tears of joy with his teammates following the most miraculous win in Seahawks, if not NFL playoff, history.

Despite having no luck with Kearse earlier in the game, Wilson had faith in his receiver and targeted Kearse one more time and it was for all the marbles. With Packer cornerback Tramon Williams draped across his back, Kearse hauled in the 35-yard game winner and squeezed the ball close to his chest. There was no way this pass was going to be interception number five.

Of course, the lands of Twitter and Facebook became very quiet where earlier so much anger and frustration was spilling over. Some folks came forward and admitted they should have had more faith in Kearse and the Seahawks and promised to be good little campers again.

On the flipside, to most Seahawk fans Kearse is pretty much operating at a “living legend” status now, if not well on his way. With a new contract on the horizon before next season, Kearse will probably be looking at the kind of money that sets up a family for generations.

Kearse will turn 25 years old just five days after Super Bowl XLIX. I have a great idea for a birthday present for the young man. History has a way of repeating itself and that would mean sometime in April, the city of Lakewood will have another “Jermaine Kearse Day” and the good people of the South Sound will be celebrating another world championship victory by the Seattle Seahawks and the kid from the 253.