It was 1984, and Daryl Turner was a rookie. I was ten. I was falling in love with football and the Seattle Seahawks.
I knew about head coach Chuck Knox and his Ground Chuck offense. He was known for controlling the ball with defense and the running game. Curt Warner (with a C) was coming off a rookie season where he ran for 1,449 yards and 13 touchdowns. In the first game of 1984, he blew out his right knee in a 33-0 win against the Cleveland Browns.
Ground Chuck had to become Air Knox.
I knew Steve Largent, the sure-handed, sharp route-running wide receiver who was always good for 60 or 70 catches and a thousand or so yards. Everyone knew he was coming. He was Seattle’s first offensive star.
Dave Krieg got his first chance to be a starting quarterback from game one. Largent would always be there, but he needed another threat.
After Warner’s injury, Turner capped the blowout over the Browns with a 34-yard over-the-shoulder toe-tapper from Krieg. It was Turner’s only catch of the game, but something sweet was brewing.
Turner kept getting a step on defenders and running away from them. He caught ten touchdowns on 35 passes that year with 20.4 yards per catch. He stretched defenses, helping Largent make 74 catches for 1164 yards and 12 scores.
The rowdy Kingdome crowd would chant “Deep Heat, Deep Heat” whenever Turner would get the ball. The 12th man was loud long before CenturyLink Field
But those were the days for me. Seattle had a nasty defense and stars on offense including a quarterback no one thought would make it. They blocked punts and kickoffs. They returned four interceptions to the end zone against the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 4.
I was a little kid and they were my heroes. I remember how easily Turner glided away from defensive backs. The ball always dropped right into his hands, in my mind, and he always held on.
Looking back, I remember some comic moments: the ball hitting Daryl in the fingers, bouncing up off his helmet, him looking back and tapping it a couple more times before it hit the turf. I recall that happening in between spectacular catches. But my brain was little then.
It seems those drops happened mostly in 1986. Turner was no longer a rookie phenomenon. He was somewhere between risky start and healthy scratch. After 34 catches for 13 touchdowns in 1985, he was already starting to disappear.
It’s the end of June in 2014. In the afterglow of a Super Bowl win, between minicamp and training camp, I’m reaching back to my favorite Seahawks memories. I remember Turner snagging an 80-yard bomb from Krieg on the first play against the Broncos way back when. I say to myself: What ever happened to that guy?
My memory from age ten doesn’t serve me well. I had to use my 21st century resources. I looked up his stats and story.
That’s it. Not much more to say. Turner was a college kid with athletic talent who liked to get high with his buddies. It went from beer to weed to coke to crack until he just couldn’t get high anymore. After four years, he was out of the league.
The Seahawks tried to trade him in 1988 to the Browns but Turner failed the physical. Seattle released him because of an invented back problem. Truly it was drugs.
Maybe the media kept me from knowing why “Deep Heat” went from double-digit touchdowns to double-digit catches to obscurity. Maybe I was fourteen and fixated in other things. My memory held onto his presence, not his absence.
Think of what could have been. The deep threat and the possession receiver have become a classic combination: Randy Moss and Wes Welker. Marino threw for 122 scores and almost 14,000 yards from 1984-86 to Mark Clayton and Mark Duper. Krieg threw 80 and over 10,000 to Largent and some other guys. What if Krieg had a No. 2 receiver?
My inner ten-year-old wants to know.