RENTON – Tech. Sgt. Brian King can’t count the number of times he’s driven past the Seattle Seahawks’ training facility and wondered what it’d be like to hang out with the players.
He calls himself a “huge, gigantic fan” of the team. He once had an opportunity be a part of an honor guard before kickoff at Qwest Field, an experience he calls one of the highlights of his life.
Until he jammed out to some Aerosmith with tight end John Carlson and defensive tackle Craig Terrill.
“It’s like a dream,” the 34-year-old Air National Guardsmen from Puyallup said Tuesday. “It took a while to digest that I was really here. I couldn’t be happier right now.”
He was one of about 25 soldiers and airmen at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center for the Pro vs. GI Joe event, which had players and service members competing in Xbox 360 games against troops deployed to Qatar.
The Hawks and the joes cracked jokes, posed for photos and talked trash over rounds of Guitar Hero, Call of Duty 4 and Halo. Oversized speakers thumped out the sounds of the video games, and plasma TVs displayed the game and a choppy video feed from Qatar, where troops deployed to Iraq go for a short break from the war.
The nonprofit Pro vs. GI Joe holds about one event a week across the country, founder Greg Zinone said. It’s designed as a day for everyone involved to relax and just have a good time, he said.
Terrill, who has been playing guitar since he was 11, admitted the buttons on the Guitar Hero hardware didn’t quite sync up with the chords he’s used to. But that didn’t stop him from opening with “Free Bird.”
“I’m pretty terrible, it turns out,” he said. “But hey, not too many people open up with Skynyrd, do they?”
Some troops who weren’t video game fanatics just relished a chance to spend an afternoon with their favorite players. Sgt. Mitchel(cq) Miranda of Olympia prefers hunting and fishing to pass the time, and he wasn’t planning on embarrassing himself on the Xbox.
But he nodded over to quarterback Matt Hasselbeck, who stood 10 feet away and flashed a wide smile for an unending stream of flashbulbs.
“That’s why I’m here, man,” said Miranda, a supply sergeant the National Guard’s 66th Theater Aviation Command. “I have every Steve Largent card ever made. So you can imagine that I’m pretty excited.”
Spc. David Drew, meanwhile, was eager to show his skills on Call of Duty 4 or Halo, first-person shooter games. While others were jamming out on Guitar Hero, he was chatting up a few of the Hawks.
The 27-year-old Tacoma resident, who recently returned from a yearlong mobilization and deployment to Iraq with the 81st Brigade Combat Team, seemed giddy at the chance to play alongside Carlson, one of his favorite players.
But what if Drew and Carlson were on opposite Call of Duty teams and the soldier had the player’s character in the crosshairs?
“He’s done,” Drew said with a laugh. “He’s done. Ain’t no rules in love and war. Even for the Hawks.”