Luke Willson has always been an original character. His abrupt exit Wednesday from the Seahawks and professional football was no less unique, but much more melancholy than his usual effervescence.
Via Twitter, Willson said he had been hospitalized in the off-season with a severe pericardial effusion, a heart condition that didn’t stop him from re-joining the Seahawks Tuesday at practice, but did stop him from continuing his football career at 31.
Writing that the health setback “really challenged me as an individual,” Willson abruptly ended a career as noteworthy for his gags, hairstyles and humor as for his resolute play over six seasons in Seattle that included the Super Bowl triumph.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, the condition is “the buildup of excess fluid in the sac-like structure around the heart (pericardium). The pericardium has two layers. The space between the layers normally contains a thin layer of fluid. But if the pericardium is diseased or injured, the resulting inflammation can lead to excess fluid. Fluid can also build up around the heart without inflammation, such as from bleeding after a chest trauma. Pericardial effusion puts pressure on the heart, affecting the heart’s function. If untreated, it can lead to heart failure or death.”
The Seahawks offered no inkling Tuesday, when Pete Carroll complimented Wilson’s readiness, saying, “He looked fine. He’s been working really hard, real trim, he ran well, caught a few balls. He did a nice job today.” Carroll even joked about Willson’s new blonde highlights.
Carroll and Willson seemed to connect on a level that is rare in sports.
“Certain people just have more juice than others,” Carroll said. “Luke has always been a great part of that for us, and he’s just one of my favorites that we’ve had in the program over the years.”
A native of Windsor, Ontario, and a graduate of Rice University in Texas, Willson was a fifth-round pick by the Seahawks in 2013. He had 111 receptions in 102 games, which included short stints in Detroit and Baltimore. He had 11 touchdowns, but it was his catch of a wild, two-point conversion pass in the 2016 NFC Championship against Green Bay, one of the greatest games in club history, that will linger longest in the memory of Seattle fans.
Closing his career now seems abrupt and a little unfair, but he retains his fitness, wit and fine eye for absurdity. Can’t wait for the late-night TV show streaming from Canada.