Jim Zorn is one of the true legends of Seattle Seahawks football — the franchise's first quarterback, a member of the team's Ring of Honor, and the quarterbacks coach for Seattle's first Super Bowl team last season.
Of course, a Super Bowl seemed light years away when the Seahawks made their first contact with Zorn to gauge his interest in signing with the 1976 NFL expansion team.
"First of all," Zorn says with a wry grin, "I wanted to make sure it was a real NFL team: 'Who do you guys play?' But I came up there, and I was signed before [head coach] Jack Patera was signed."
Zorn, an undrafted free agent out of NCAA Division II Cal Poly-Pomona, wound up starting all season for that first Seahawks team. His previous NFL experience came the year before in training camp with the Dallas Cowboys (he was cut after one game) and in practices with the old Los Angeles Rams.
The '76 Seahawks finished 2-12, but the Pacific Northwest quickly fell in love with its first NFL team, packing the Kingdome game after game.
"It was wild ... you would have thought we nearly made the playoffs, because there was so much enthusiasm from the fans," Zorn recalled earlier this week during a break in training camp in Cheney.
The nimble feet and strong left arm of Zorn, coupled with future Hall of Fame wide receiver Steve Largent, helped make Seahawks football exciting from the get-go. It all started 30 years ago with that first training camp in Cheney.
"The atmosphere was upbeat — everything was new," Zorn says. "We didn't know what we were getting and what we weren't getting in terms of player ability.
"Were we getting good coaching? Are we getting all we need from the organization to be successful on the field?
"A lot of those questions were answered 'Yes.'"
Sleepy little Cheney has never been a big hit with players, but Zorn has few complaints about coaching in Cheney. As a player, however ...
"I think the worst memories are not having water at practice," Zorn says. "Jack Patera would not allow water at practice. And the really long training camps, before training camps got cut down. We were here six weeks, with six preseason games.
"I guess the best memories are just being at a great school with great facilities with excellent people who work around here and accommodate our program."
Zorn broke into coaching as quarterbacks coach at Boise State in 1988, one year after his NFL career ended with Tampa Bay. (He played for Seattle from 1976-84.) Zorn also coached collegiately at Utah State and Minnesota before assisting with the Seahawks in 1997 (under current Idaho coach Dennis Erickson), with the Detroit Lions from 1998-2000 and since 2001 with the Seahawks once again.
Zorn, 53, says his wife made certain their family (including four children) has survived and thrived despite all the time demands of football. Joy Zorn was a student at Washington and Jim was playing for the Seahawks when they first met.
"She's got independence, she's got consistency, convictions, inner strength," Zorn says of his wife of 27 years. "She has a deep faith. She has a purposeful life."
Sounds like Joy and Jim Zorn have a lot in common.
"I'm happy I'm a coach," Zorn says. "It's not a burden for me.
"It's interesting, challenging. I think I'm enthusiastic about it. I'm energized, and it works well with my family."
The Seattle Seahawks practice at EWU in Cheney once or twice daily most days through Aug. 24. On Saturday, Aug. 5, they'll hold their Extravaganza, with a barbecue lunch, 2 pm scrimmage and other activities. Visit www.ewu.edu/seahawks.