As linebacker Malcolm Smith, the Super Bowl XLVIII Most Valuable Player (MVP) and his Seattle Seahawks teammate, defensive end Cliff Avril toured 737 Final Assembly in Renton, Wash., last Friday it was obvious something big was brewing. Every now and then, as they peered at the engine hang area or walked through a 737 nearing completion, they heard a deep rumbling from outside the factory.
When the two professional athletes completed the tour and stepped into the sunlight, they saw what it was. A throng of 5,000 screaming Boeing employees greeted them, warmed up with performances by the Sea Gals cheerleading squad, the Blue Thunder drum line and Blitz, the Seahawks mascot.
Amid the warmth, cheers and a shouted marriage proposal to Avril, the players had something to say in return. They thanked Boeing employees for their unwavering support and made it clear they recognize a winning team when they see one.
“We saw your teamwork in there," Smith told the Renton crowd. "Totally amazing what you guys have done and what you do making us feel comfortable on our planes.” Then he revealed, “I live right here in Renton, so I hear the planes coming through,” he said to thunderous applause.
Over the course of two days, five Seattle Seahawks players visited four Boeing sites in the Puget Sound region, at events attended by a combined 20,000 employees. In addition to Smith and Avril, wide receiver Doug Baldwin, and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright toured facilities, headlined rallies and signed autographs.
At each location, Commercial Airplanes President and CEO Ray Conner led the players on tours. Conner thanked employees for the dedication and commitment they bring to their jobs, and explained why he decided the local Super Bowl champs were the ideal guests to bring to Boeing.
“There are a lot of similarities between what a football team does and what we do,” Conner said. “Striving to be better every single day. That’s what this team did and that’s what you do every day.”
Matt Moeller, a 737 employee, echoed the reaction of many of his colleagues. “I think it’s great to work for a company where they get people who are so revered in the community to come and visit. Everybody’s nuts about these Seahawks!” Moeller said.
At Boeing Field, Avril, Smith and Connor met 50 members of Boeing Test & Evaluation and Commercial Airplanes and toured a 787-9 flight test airplane. Tom Meier, BT&E flight test manufacturing manager, showed technologies and data systems, and told the players how the test crew flew the Seahawks flag during flight testing in Kona, Hawaii.
Among nearly 4,000 people at the Auburn site were employees bused from Portland, Ore., and Frederickson, Wash. The players watched Fabrication employees in protective gear remove a 737 heat shield from a fiery hot Super Plastic Forming Press (SPF). Afterwards, SPF operator John Davis provided some levity when he peeled open his silver "bunker coat" to reveal a shirt with the logo of the rival San Francisco 49ers team. It elicited hearty laughs, handshakes and an admission from Davis that "I love the Hawks. They're a great team!"
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin, like Conner, emphasized the mutual teamwork, discipline, drive and dedication that make success possible both in the factory and on the football field.
“It’s unbelievable what you do, the job that you guys do, the effort you put into building these planes," Baldwin said. "It’s changing the world.”