For Doug Baldwin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, Champions of Change is a way to carry on the legacy of the Seahawks

RENTON — Doug Baldwin, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett have different titles now than in their years helping the Seahawks reach heights the franchise never had.

Baldwin, then a wide receiver who ended his career as the best in Seahawks history aside from Steve Largent, says today proudly: “I’m a daddy girl! with girls aged 2 and 3, and is the CEO of Intellectual Ventures, a Bellevue-based company whose mission is “to create software to enable better decisions and better outcomes for a stronger and more healthier”.

Bennett, who at the time teamed up with Avril to form one of the most intimidating passes in the NFL, is a husband, father of three daughters and now a budding architect. He is currently enrolled in an architecture program at the University of Hawaii — he long had a Honolulu-area home with his wife, Pele — after also taking a year of interior design classes there. .

Avril, also a husband and father, was a co-host on Sports Radio 93.3 KJR from 2018-2020 and has kept a hand in a number of different business and philanthropic endeavors in the Seattle area since leaving that job.

But all three know that the title “Seahawk” may be the one that will forever define them the best with the public.

And while they’ll never be true Seahawks on game day again, they’ve found another way to see themselves as teammates again.

The trio announced in March the formation of Champions of Change, an organization designed, as their website states, to “raise awareness and support organizations that serve our communities by supporting pathways for families to have stable, healthy and loving homes. ”

The centerpiece of their efforts is a celebrity basketball game Sunday at 3 p.m. at Climate Pledge Arena – the first of what they plan to become an annual affair – which will include Sue Bird and Marshawn Lynch as co- coaches for one team, Gary Payton and Shawn Kemp as co-coaches for the other, and celebrity players expected to include former Seahawk teammates Richard Sherman, Jermaine Kearse, Jeremy Lane, Derrick Coleman, Bruce Irvin and Bryan Walters.

All were members of the 2013 team that won the city its only Super Bowl title.

And while many have remained close – Baldwin says he and Avril, who have both decided to make Seattle their permanent home, “talk pretty damned almost every day” – the passage of time means some haven’t seen each other since. a little while, making any chance to connect that much more valued.

“It’s like when we get together, we feel like this band, we feel very young and we have fun,” Bennett said Friday. “It’s just one of those things that you like being with these guys when you get the chance.”

Consider it a happy byproduct of their new team’s primary focus.

Bennett, Avril and Baldwin were all involved in charities during their Seahawks years.

But as their NFL careers began to wind down — Avril’s in 2017, Baldwin’s in 2018 and Bennett’s in 2019 — they also began to think about how best to continue that work in retirement.

Bennett said he and Avril hatched a plan to organize a charity group to help the Seattle area when Avril visited him while he was playing for the Eagles in 2018.

They discussed on Twitter whether they should have a flag football game – Bennett’s idea – or a basketball game – Avril’s. Avril’s idea won the vote and the two decided to try and find a way to make it happen. They then approached Baldwin for help, with Baldwin eagerly signing on.

“I think we think about how to be part of a team, part of a collaboration,” Bennett said. “So it makes sense to us that it’s not one, but all.”

Their group’s goal is to shine a light on local organizations that may not be getting as much attention as others. Among their beneficiary partners are the Odessa Brown Children’s Clinic; DADS; Women United Seattle; Humble Design Seattle; and Dignity for Divas.

On Friday, as part of their Champions of Change weekend, they hosted a Day of Service which included an appearance at a Day of Play event at the Skyway Boys and Girls Club.

They chose this club as being in an area which they feel is underserved. In addition to food and games, there were stalls for groups such as the Young Black & Brilliant Book Club, a Puyallup-based organization encouraging reading for children aged 11 to 15 – for every book read, a child can participate in a planned social activity.

The goal of the day was to expose as many parents and children as possible to activities, services and groups they may not be familiar with.

Baldwin then returns to a football metaphor.

“Just like winning a championship, everyone has a part to play,” he said. “Our role is to highlight these organizations.

And along the way, maybe keep discovering new post-football goals in life.

Baldwin, essentially forced to retire after the 2018 season due to ongoing injury issues, candidly admits “the first year and a half, I would say, was really, really tough. Think of a 30-year-old man retiring from something he’s done all his life and wondering ‘now what are you going to do?’ while still having that competitive drive and nature to want to do something but not know what to do.

Baldwin, however, says that alongside his business and charitable pursuits, his growing family helped give him a new direction.

“(My family) is pushing me on a different life trajectory,” he said. “It (retirement) was really, really difficult at first. But I feel like I’m on the other side now.

Bennett says his new found passion for architecture helped him adjust to life after football. His architectural focus, he said, is on public spaces such as museums and parks and “things that bring people together.”

But while his departure from Seattle via a trade to Philadelphia in March 2018 could be described as somewhat controversial, Bennett said on Friday that the decision to retire had been made easier when he realized in his last two years with the Eagles, Patriots and Cowboys he had will never find the kind of camaraderie he had with the Seahawks.

“After the Seahawks, it was just one of those things,” Bennett said. “The game here is like you built this brotherhood. And when you can’t find that brotherhood, it was just a game at that time, where here (in Seattle) we’ve built something with a lot of great people and you have that connection with them and you play for more than the actual game. So I just felt like when you didn’t have that, it didn’t feel the same. So I decided to retire. »

Like Baldwin, Avril had no choice in the matter, retiring following a neck injury in October 2017.

Bennett recently reminded her that it’s been nearly 10 years since the Super Bowl season, which caused Avril to recall that he’s now been retired for almost five years.

“Crazy,” April said.

But as they mingled with children, vendors and educators on their day of service on Friday, they also realized that the memory of that glorious 2013 season may still feel as fresh as yesterday – a memory they hope that events like Sunday will be able to keep alive while making the news.

“It’s been a journey,” Avril said. “It has been a blessing. We were able to create something so special. But honestly, I don’t think we realized how special it was for the city. We also didn’t realize how good we were at the time. So now we’re starting to notice that and how people are receiving us. And also with the work that we’re doing in the community now, it’s all starting to come full circle.

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