KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -Seattle has Deion Branch, a former Super Bowl MVP. It has Bobby Engram, an ultra-dependable veteran receiver the quarterback knows best. And it has Nate Burleson, a flashy, risky game-breaker who doesn't get attention so much as he commands it.
D.J. Hackett? The quiet Seahawks starting receiver who was an inactive player on game days 14 months ago? The guy who played only two seasons of major college football and is better known for basketball in his hometown of San Dimas, Calif.?
``Engram and Branch and Burleson, they're kind of kinetic. They're all over the place,'' Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren said, darting his hands in different directions and making revving sounds.
``Hackett's kind of this,'' Holmgren said, smoothly gliding his hands in the air.
That smoothness works. Hackett is coming off a career day of nine catches for 136 yards in last week's win over Chicago. Since returning from a six-game absence because of a high ankle sprain, Hackett has 23 catches and three touchdowns in three games as pass-happy Seattle (6-4) prepares to take its NFC West lead to St. Louis (2-8) on Sunday.
Yet the fifth-round pick out of Colorado in 2004 remains overshadowed - not in the league but on his own team. Hackett is as unassuming as a two-door coupe inside a parking lot of Hummers and BMWs.
That coupe would be Hackett's black, 2002 Honda Civic.
``He's got a couple of new cars, too. Tell them about those,'' locker neighbor Nate Burleson said Wednesday, from over Hackett's shoulder.
Yes, smooth is also the other car Hackett drives, two days a week, the one that shows he's arrived as a top of the line threat.
``A Lexus,'' he said.
Hackett's personality fits his game and his car. After failing to hold onto a touchdown pass Sunday that Chicago's Adam Archuleta poked out, Holmgren railed into Hackett, whose father was a receiver for the Minnesota Vikings in 1971.
He got no response.
What about after Hackett caught a 19-yard touchdown? No response.
``How he talks to me, how he kind of does stuff, how he gets in the huddle, reminds me of the guys I grew up with in San Francisco - 'Peace and love.','' Holmgren said, flashing peace signs in each hand.
Those ``V'' shapes also stand for ``victory.'' Seattle has won three of the four games Hackett has played this season and the loss was in overtime at Cleveland when he had eight catches, 101 yards and a score. The Seahawks are 3-3 when Hackett's been out, as he was from practice Wednesday with what he called minor soreness in his left knee.
Everyone around Seattle pointed at Shaun Alexander running to nowhere and Branch being out with a sprained foot as the reasons the Seahawks offense was a mess for months. Hasselbeck has another explanation.
``Losing Hackett was tough,'' he said.
Hasselbeck loves Hackett's size: 6-feet-2, 208 pounds. Hackett overwhelms defensive backs who try to press him on the line, as Chicago's Trumaine McBride did Sunday. Hackett bulled through the rookie, then ran away from the middle of the Bears' defense for a 59-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter.
Those physical skills made him a star in basketball, track and football at San Dimas High School. His basketball reputation was so formidable after leading San Dimas to multiple Southern California section championships, it ruined his chance for a Division I scholarship in football.
``I got recruited by a lot of schools, but my football coach told a lot of schools that I was going to play basketball,'' Hackett said. ``When signing day came around, I was wondering what happened, why nobody called me.''
Finally, something to upset the unflappable Hackett.
``Oh, of course I was upset,'' he said, adding that by the time he convinced schools he wanted to play football only a few, mostly Division I-AA schools had scholarships remaining. ``But I looked at it as, God put me in certain situations, and I was going to make it here regardless of where I was playing at.''
He went to Cal State-Northridge. After a redshirt year and two seasons there, the school disbanded the football program in 2001. Colorado signed him to a scholarship. Seahawks receiver coach Nolan Cromwell noticed Hackett there, when few others did.
``I noticed he had good hands. When you would watch on film, you would see that deceptive speed. It really didn't look like he was running that fast,'' Cromwell said.
Kind of like a Honda Civic.
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