RENTON — The Seahawks locker room is loaded with out-sized personalities and/or doers of feats. Add in sustained success, and the joint often becomes a sort of Stephen Colbert farewell show, where self-promotion can overwhelm unprepared observers.
But not everyone aspires to extroversion. Such as Jordan Hill, the third-year defensive tackle from Penn State, who seems to be the embodiment 0f Garrison Keillor’s explanation of how Lutherans treat an offer of a good time: “You go ahead. I’ll be fine.”
Unless someone irritates Hill.
“He’s one of those quiet guys who’s got a little temper to him if you get on his bad side,” said teammate Kam Chancellor, who knows a little bit about bad sides. “He plays with attitude. He puts his helmet on, and it’s time to go to work. He has a bad attitude, high motor and he’s always around the ball, no matter where it is.”
It’s why he’s likely to be the Next Big Thing on Seattle’s defense.
Hill, 24, has been backing up veteran DT Brandon Mebane, 30, who missed the Sunday win over Chicago with a strained groin muscle, which will likely keep him out Monday against Detroit.
Last year, after Mebane went down in the 10th game with a torn hamstring, the Seahawks won their six remaining games when the defense gave up only 39 points. New starter Hill had 13 tackles and 5½ sacks, including two of Colin Kaepernick of the 49ers. In the final regular-season game against St. Louis, Hill had his first pro interception. For a nose tackle, a pick is like a Mariners catcher getting a hit — a rare, emotional spectacle.
But since he also injured his calf in that game and was placed on injured reserve, he wasn’t part of the playoffs and returned largely to the obscurity in which he is most comfortable.
Then came the second quarter Sunday when Mebane came out in the second quarter and Hill stepped in. In the second half, the Bears had one first down and 37 yards of offense. Granted, the Bears are terrible, especially playing a backup quarterback, and Hill had plenty of help, but the plain fact was that the defense was better with Hill.
“He did well,” said coach Pete Carroll. “He was very active . . . I made a comment to the team this week that he was one of the guys that really has improved. If you remember, he was very active for a while last year. He had a six-game stretch where he was really making things happen.
“We really haven’t had a steady look at him, but now that he’s back and going, it’s great to see.”
More than a fill-in, Hill is the Seattle defensive future, along with rookie DT Frank Clark. That’s a crucial development, because age, injury and free agency will continue to drain the Seahawks of the talent that made the defense over the past three years the most dominant the league has seen in more than 40 years.
Carroll and the Seahawks try to plan throughout the roster for succession, but when players such as RB Christine Michael, WR Percy Harvin and LG James Carpenter bust, the club has more potholes to work around, which annually gets more difficult as success mandates bigger salaries for stars.
So when players such as Hill and Clark, a rookie taken in the second round this year, deliver on potential, it’s one headache retired.
“Both those guys are really on the rise,” he said. “We’ve seen a lot of good stuff out of Jordan. He’s been hard to block, he’s made stuff happen in the backfield. Frank has been really active as well. I don’t think we’ve corralled all of the things exactly, that we will eventually with Frank.
“I think both those guys have really been terrific. They look like they have the chance to really be a factor as we go down the schedule.”
For his part, Hill dismisses the attempt to explain his pending ascension to The Next Big Thing.
“It’s just experience, a year older,” he said. “Just knowing what’s coming. It’s how I approach it since I’ve been here — try to improve every day on and off the field.”
Told that Hill seems to be a reluctant self-promoter, Chancellor grinned.
“If you talk to him long enough, his personality comes out,” he said. “He’s a good guy, very ambitious, but laid back at the same time.
The more opportunities he gets, the more confidence he gets.”
For now, however, he’s flunking the part of job that includes horn self-tooting. Fortunately for him, he won’t be lacking for mentors.