If there’s one thing most sports fans love, it’s an underdog.
Whether the player was overlooked, cast aside, or thought not to possess the right skill set, their story becomes marketing gold when their hard work pays off.
Steve Largent knows this well.
He was an All-American in college, drafted in the middle rounds, then traded away.
Largent took that slight and used it to develop into one of the best receivers in NFL history.
Then, after leaving the NFL, he served his country as a member of Congress.
This is the story of Steve Largent.
HBD to Steve Largent🎉
— Goat Jerseys (@GoatJerseys) September 28, 2019
Stephen Michael Largent was born on September 29, 1954, in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Before Largent turned six, his parents divorced and his mother remarried.
Unfortunately, Largent’s stepfather was an abusive alcoholic.
Many times, the victims of his stepfather’s wrath were Largent and his mother.
Although his home life was toxic, Largent vowed to be different as an adult.
“I can remember crying myself to sleep many times, saying, ‘My family will never be like this.'”
To escape his stepfather, Largent immersed himself in sports.
When he was at Putnam City High School in Oklahoma City, Largent spent every waking minute in athletics.
“That’s (sports) what I majored in, in high school,” he joked in a 2012 interview.
Although he didn’t see himself excelling in athletics past high school, Largent toiled to become the hardest worker on each team he played for.
— Eric Moreno (@EricMoreno6477) April 5, 2017
For example, when preparing for each football season, Largent caught 300 passes every day.
His ultimate goal, despite the odds, was to get a scholarship.
Knowing that his parents couldn’t help him pay for college, Largent busted his tail to get noticed by college coaches.
Largent also aspired to find affirmation from his coaches, something he didn’t get at home.
“I needed somebody to love me, and the people that I chose were my coaches,” he said in a brutally honest moment. “I would sacrifice my body to be successful for my coaches because I wanted them to love me, to respect me, to have positive feelings about me.”
By the time he was finishing his prep career, Largent had lettered in baseball and football.
He wasn’t the best player on either team, but he was good enough to get a scholarship opportunity with the University of Tulsa.
All-American Golden Hurricane
Largent didn’t exactly stand out after arriving at Tulsa.
But, that was only because he wasn’t quite six feet tall and hadn’t proved himself, yet.
After not seeing the field during his freshman year, Largent announced his arrival in 1973.
That year, he played well enough to collect 33 passes for 501 yards and four touchdowns.
In 1974, Largent put himself in elite company when he caught 52 passes for 884 yards and 14 scores.
His touchdown mark was the best in college football.
After the ‘74 season, Larget was selected to the All-Missouri Valley Conference team.
— Tulsa Football (@TulsaFootball) June 15, 2021
1975 was more of the same.
As a senior, Largent collected 51 passes for 1,000 yards and 14 more touchdowns.
Once again, his touchdown total led the nation.
Largent was named to the All-Missouri Valley Conference team for a second time and was honored as an All-American.
During Largent’s three years as a starter with the Golden Hurricanes, he caught a total of 136 receptions for 2,385 yards (17.5 yards per catch average) and 32 touchdowns.
Tulsa had a fairly mediocre 21-12 record from 1973-1975, but Largent was a standout for the program.
He didn’t play for a name-brand college, however, Largent looked to the 1976 NFL Draft with the belief that NFL teams would be happy to have him.
Fourth Round Pick
Apparently, the fact that Largent was an All-American didn’t mean much to most NFL teams.
He sat and waited for hours, wondering why no team was calling.
Finally, with the 117th overall pick of the 4th round, Largent was drafted by the Houston Oilers.
Once he arrived in Houston, Largent hit the ground running.
He threw himself into drills and made sure coaches knew who he was.
After the Oilers’ final preseason game, then head coach Bum Phillips called Largent into his office.
Phillips informed Largent that the team had all the receivers they needed (which included Billy “White Shoes” Johnson).
Therefore, the Oilers would be releasing him.
The Oilers drafted Steve Largent in 1976 and traded him a few months later to the Seahawks for an 8th round pick in 1977. Whoops. pic.twitter.com/FKWk4pwRXc
— Super 70s Sports (@Super70sSports) July 15, 2021
Largent was crushed that he didn’t get the opportunity he felt he deserved.
Fortunately, a lifeline was extended.
The same year he was drafted, Seattle began their first season as an NFL expansion franchise.
The newly christened “Seahawks” were looking for all the help they could get.
Houston traded Largent to Seattle in exchange for a 1977 eighth-round draft pick.
He made the roster along with fellow receivers Don Clune, Sam McCullum, and Steve Raible.
Largent Takes Off with Seattle
Largent’s arrival in Seattle coincided with Seahawks assistant coach Jerry Rhome.
Rhome coached Largent at Tulsa and continued to work with the receiver during his rookie year.
That partnership paid off and it became obvious that Largent was the best receiver on the Seahawks roster.
Who is one NFL player you wish you could’ve watch live?
Mine is Steve Largent pic.twitter.com/NOc9Mxi6eD
— Warden Bridges (25-5) (@mikalbridge) December 10, 2020
Another arrival that year was quarterback Jim Zorn.
Zorn was signed as an undrafted free agent by Dallas the previous season and then cut.
After spending 1975 out of football, he was given another chance by Seattle.
Zorn and Largent would prove to be a match made in heaven and would thrill Seahawks fans for years.
During the franchise’s first-ever game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Largent collected five passes from Zorn.
By the end of his rookie year, Largent had 54 receptions for 705 yards and four touchdowns.
Zorn would be named team MVP following the season and was voted AFC Offensive Rookie of the Year.
In 1977, Largent wouldn’t see as many passes (33) or yards (643) as the year before, but he was the recipient of 10 touchdown passes from Zorn.
Most expansion teams struggle their first few years and that was certainly the case with Seattle.
After their first two seasons, the team had an overall 7-21 record.
However, with Largent and Zorn pacing the offense, the team came to life in 1978 and 1979.
The Seahawks finished 9-7 and third in the AFC West both seasons.
Meanwhile, Zorn found his passing partner early and often.
In 1978, Largent caught 71 passes for 1,168 yards and eight scores.
Who is the first player you think of when you hear Seattle Seahawks?
I go with Steve Largent. pic.twitter.com/QFvRFcrBQD
— onemillioncubs (@onemillioncubs) January 13, 2020
The following year, he had 66 receptions for a league-high 1,237 yards, an 82.5 yards per game mark that also led the NFL, and nine touchdowns.
Largent’s stats in ‘78 led to his first Pro Bowl selection.
He was the first-ever Seahawk to receive the honor.
That same year, Larget was selected to the first of four career Second-team All-Pro honors.
He was also voted to the Pro Bowl and named Second-team All-Pro after the 1979 season.
After being on the cusp of the postseason for two years running, the Seahawks took a giant step back from 1980-1982.
During that stretch, the team never won more than six games.
That futility would ultimately get head coach Jack Patera (Seattle’s first coach in franchise history) fired during the 1982 season.
The Seahawks’ troubles didn’t seem to affect Largent, though.
While the team suffered through a prolonged losing streak, Larget caught 175 passes for 2,781 yards and 18 touchdowns from ‘80-’82.
He would also be voted to his third Pro Bowl after the 1981 season.
Although he toiled away on a losing team, Largent was a fan favorite.
He did not have the height or speed that many of his peers had, but Largent had other intangibles.
He was known for his precise route running and great hands.
— Mikaela Mattes 🎙 (@mikaelamattes) December 4, 2021
Largent attributed his success to, of all things, skeet shooting.
In his mind, Largent equated looking at the edge of the skeet to focusing on the tip of a football.
He tuned everything else out and saw only one part of his target, which allowed him to snag nearly everything that came his way.
Largent became so adept at corralling passes that teammates gave him the nickname “Yoda.”
Largent and Seattle Reach the Postseason
With the Jack Patera era finished after the 1982 season, the Seahawks sought their next head coach.
They interviewed several candidates before finding their man.
Chuck Knox had previously been the head coach of the LA Rams and the Buffalo Bills.
He had been the coach in Buffalo through 1982 but failed to reach terms of a new contract with Bills owner Ralph Wilson.
Seattle offered what Knox wanted and the two sides reached an agreement.
By the middle of the 1983 season, the Seahawks had a 4-4 record.
— St. Louis Football Cardinals (@BigRed_STL) November 13, 2020
It was also the second straight year where Zorn had shown inconsistency and this time it would cost him.
Dave Krieg, who had spelled Zorn occasionally since 1981, was inserted as the starter by Knox.
Krieg, Largent, and rookie running back Curt Warner then found their rhythm and the Seahawks finished the last half of the season 5-3.
That was good enough to get Seattle into their first postseason at 9-7.
The Seahawks crushed division rival Denver in the Wild Card Round 31-7 (Largent would score the first touchdown of the game).
Seattle then slid by the Dolphins in the Divisional Round 27-20.
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) January 25, 2014
The Seahawks were one game away from the Super Bowl when they ran into the LA Raiders in the AFC Championship game.
By halftime, the Raiders were pounding their division rival 20-0.
Seattle would score a touchdown in each of the final two quarters, but it wasn’t nearly enough.
Los Angeles advanced to Super Bowl XVIII after dispatching the Seahawks 30-14.
For the year, Largent caught 72 passes for 1,074 yards and 11 touchdowns.
In 1984, Seattle returned to the playoffs after a then franchise-best 12-4 record.
They would get revenge and upend the Raiders 13-7 in the Wild Card Round.
A week later, Miami would rout the Seahawks 31-10.
During the game, Largent caught a 56-yard bomb from Krieg for a touchdown in the second quarter.
Based on 74 receptions for 1,164 yards and 12 scores, Largent returned to the Pro Bowl and received his third Second-team All-Pro nod after the season.
After getting bounced from the playoffs in 1984, Seattle missed the postseason in 1985 and 1986.
Largent, however, continued to show why he was one of the best in the game.
In 1985, he caught a career-high 79 passes for an NFL best 1,287 yards and six touchdowns.
The following season saw Largent collect 70 receptions for 1,070 yards and nine scores.
Seattle climbed back into the playoffs in 1987 with a 9-6 record.
Largent chipped in with 58 receptions for 912 yards and eight touchdowns.
During the Wild Card Round, Largent did his best to defeat the team that drafted him.
Despite scoring two touchdowns against Houston, the Oilers ended Seattle’s season, 23-20, in overtime.
Largent gets a Little Payback in 1988
By 1988, Largent was feeling his age.
That season, he turned 34, which is past middle age for an NFL receiver.
However, Largent continued to give 110% for his team and it showed.
In the Seahawks’ Week 1 game against the Broncos, Largent caught a pass and was immediately crushed by Denver defensive back Mike Harden.
Replays showed Harden driving his forearm into Largent’s facemask during the play, which is illegal.
By the time the receiver landed on the turf, he was unconscious.
Fast forward to Week 15.
Seattle faced Denver once again and this time Largent was ready.
At one point during the contest, Krieg threw an errant pass and Harden intercepted it.
As Harden was returning the ball, Largent turned into a heat-seeking missile.
He caught up to Harden and laid into the defensive back.
Hall of Famer Steve Largent celebrates his 67th birthday today… pic.twitter.com/HvAw0nkItH
— 80s Sports N Stuff (@80sSportsNStuff) September 28, 2021
Not only did Largent de-cleat Harden, but he also caused his nemesis to fumble, which Largent recovered.
To this day, Largent is still asked about the hit.
“People ask me, did I know who it was when I hit him? I say, ‘I knew exactly who it was, and I knew exactly what I was trying to do, and I did it,’” Largent said in a 2020 interview. “They say in the NFL that ‘payback is hell,’ and that’s what I was thinking when I got to hit him at that point.”
As Seattle ended their 9-7 season in 1988, Largent received the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year award for his charity and volunteer work.
The Seahawks faced Cincinnati in the Divisional Round of the playoffs but would lose 31-13.
In 1988, Largent only had 39 receptions for 645 yards and two scores.
He returned for a 14th season in 1989, though it was clear he was no longer the same receiver.
Largent appeared in 10 games and started nine.
He collected a career-low 28 passes for 403 yards and three touchdowns.
However, the biggest catch of his career took place in Week 14 against the Bengals.
In the second quarter, Krieg dropped back to pass and found Largent in the back of the end zone.
On this date in 1989, Steve Largent of the Seahawks caught his 100th and final TD of his Hall-of-Fame career against the Bengals, breaking Don Hutson's record of 99. To show you how ridiculous Jerry Rice was, he nearly doubled that mark with 197 receiving touchdowns. pic.twitter.com/6HNiOEOnug
— Funhouse (@BackAftaThis) December 11, 2019
The score was Largent’s 100th career touchdown, which broke Don Hutson’s 44-year old scoring record.
At the end of the season, Largent decided to call it a career.
In 14 years, he had totals of 819 receptions, 13,089 yards, and 100 touchdowns.
At the time, each one of his totals was an NFL record.
Largent would become a member of the NFL’s 1980s All-Decade Team, 100th Anniversary All-Time Team, Seahawks Ring of Honor, and had his number 80 retired by Seattle.
Steve Largent is one of the 10 wide receivers selected to the #NFL100 All-Time Team!
🙌 1985 First-Team All-Pro, 7x Pro Bowl selection
🙌 819 receptions, 13,089 receiving yards, 100 receiving TDs
🙌 First player to catch 100 receiving TDs
🙌 1988 Walter Payton Man of the Year pic.twitter.com/nQ2H4UGXp6
— NFL (@NFL) December 21, 2019
Largent’s retirement also spelled the end of his remarkable 177 consecutive regular-season games with a reception.
He addressed the streak at the time.
“I’m just tired of talking about the streak, I’m just glad I did it, glad for the attention, but it’s not that big a thing. I mean, I’m not bragging, but just going Sunday to Sunday, it will be a real rare game when I don’t catch a pass.”
Second Career as a Politician
After retiring, Largent moved back to Oklahoma and opened an advertising and marketing consulting firm in Tulsa.
While operating his business, Largent became involved in fundraising for the Republican party in Oklahoma and in Seattle.
He was hooked on politics and, in 1994, Largent began his own campaign for the U.S. House seat in Oklahoma.
Running as a Republican, Largent was overwhelmingly elected with 63% of the vote.
The following year, he was elected as a member of the 1995 Class of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Largent continued to serve as a Congressman after re-election in 1996, 1998, and 2000.
— Tulsa World Sports (@TWSportsExtra) March 2, 2017
In late 2001, Largent announced that he was leaving his seat in office to run for the Oklahoma governor’s office in 2002.
After a campaign marked by scandals that involved companies that contributed to his campaign, Largent lost the bid by only 6,000 votes.
“The underdog won. That happens in life, that happens in athletics, and that happened in politics last night,” Largent said after the election.
He then returned to the business sector and became an executive of CTIA-The Wireless Association in 2003.
He served as President and CEO of the company until 2014.
Largent has been married to his wife, Terry, for over 40 years and they have four children.
The Largent’s currently reside in Oklahoma.