Before Seahawks’ must-win game in LA, Bobby Wagner gives gifts to Army family, students

Bobby Wagner (Keith Allison/WikiCommons)
December 25, 2021

Sergeant First Class Nick Hanley was with his family in the Sea-Tac USO Center when Bobby Wagner walked in.

The cyber network defender with the 1st Special Forces Group (Airborne) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord and 20-year veteran of active-duty service in the U.S. Army was at the airport USO with his wife Melissa and their two children.

Wagner was at the airport USO bearing gifts. He’s a linebacker Santa Claus.

The Seahawks All-Pro joined Captain David C. Wood, a retired Army general and chief pilot in Seattle for Delta Airlines, to surprise the Hanley family with four round-trip airline tickets, plus four tickets to the Seahawks’ home game against Detroit Jan. 2.

“I want to shout-out to Delta for helping me send a couple families home for the holidays,” Wagner said of the Seahawks’ airline partner.

The company provides the team’s charter jet and crew to each road game during the season.

“We tried to recognize a family in the military that does an amazing job,” Wagner said before his Seahawks (5-8) played the Los Angeles Rams (9-4) in a must-win game at SoFi Stadium Tuesday. “Obviously, they spend a lot of their time fighting for the country, and we wanted to take the time to recognize a particular family for the work that they did.”

Wagner didn’t recognize only SFC Hanley for his military career and missions with one of the Army’s elite — and most deployed far from home — units. He pointed out what his wife Melissa does as an Army spouse raising 7-year-old son Brooks and 4-year-old daughter Vivian.

Last month, Wagner talked at length in another of his midweek press conferences about his respect and appreciation for women in our society, and how they deserve more.

Any Army leader will quickly tell you the backbone of the Army is the military spouse.

Melissa Hanley is an extraordinarily strong backbone.

She serves as a Military Family Life Counselor therapist with the 555th Engineer Brigade at JBLM. She provides services to soldiers, spouses and families, particularly when a soldier is away from his or her family.

Melissa has co-led a women’s mentoring program at JBLM the past two years. She is an active USO Northwest volunteer at the Shali USO Center at McChord Field on JBLM.

“We went and surprised them with some tickets to the game and had a lot of fun with their kids,” Wagner said of SFC Hanley and his family.

“His daughter was pretty dope.”

Why did Wagner go to the airport USO on some off time from the Seahawks dealing with COVID-19 cases late in a long, subpar Seattle season during preparations for the team’s biggest game this season?

“It’s just understanding,” the 31-year-old father of a young daughter said. “I don’t think people realize what a military family goes through. I think sometimes they’re forgotten about, as well.

“We just wanted to kind of have the opportunity to let them know they’re not forgotten, and understanding that it’s kind of similar to an NFL player. So much of our time is spent studying film and playing this game, you forget about the family that also has to endure your loved one not being there for you.

“It’s just a way for, I thought, myself partnering with Delta, to send some love.”

Trip to Silicon Valley

Wagner is sending love and opportunity in more ways than one this holiday season.

The Seahawks’ co-captain and NFL co-leader in sacks with 152 entering Tuesday’s game is also taking nine high-school and college-aged students to Silicon Valley. He wants to go back to California’s Bay Area to tour venture-capital companies and learn more about an industry that Wagner is keenly interested in pursuing. And he wants to take students with him.

Wagner is hosting an online writing contest. He will select nine winners to take on a trip he made a couple years ago with Seahawks teammate Duane Brown.

“It changed my life,” Wagner said of his Silicon Valley trip, “so I’m going to offer that opportunity to nine individuals.”

Why nine?

“It’s my favorite number,” Wagner said.

“The way you let me know you are interested is: write as much as you can within Twitter, I think it’s 160 characters, why you want to go and what you want to learn during this trip. Use the hashtag #tackleeverything. … I’ll read it. I’ll see it.

“I’m not saying we’re going to come up with winners right away. This is kind of an idea that came to me late at night. …We’re going to pick nine people. We’re going to take them down to Silicon Valley and we’re going to get the same experience that I had, or close to it — or hopefully better.

“We’ll see if we can blow that up … help kids.”


Wagner said he was inspired to the homemade idea of the Silicon Valley trip for young adults by how ridiculously blown up, “viral” his comments the previous week about mayonnaise became online.

“I never put mayo on anything. Mayo is disgusting,” Wagner said, pretty much randomly, in his midweek press conference before the Seahawks won at Houston.

There have been 9 million impressions of that comment on The News Tribune’s Seahawks’ reporting Twitter post of his mayo bashing.

Wagner heard from mayo fans, fellow mayo haters and mayo companies. Even the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the college football postseason game to be played between North Carolina and South Carolina in Charlotte next week, let Wagner know what it thought of his wiping out of the condiment.

Wagner figured if his off-handed comment about mayo can generate more buzz than anything about the Rams, the Cardinals or anything football-related he’s said all year, why not put out initiatives that actually help people rather than just entertain — or, in the case of mayo lovers, apparently infuriate them?

“Last week was interesting,” Wagner said. “I mentioned mayonnaise and that got blown way out of proportion.”

He couldn’t resist further digs at mayo, though.

“I would say 90% of the people that I talk to don’t actually have mayonnaise in their refrigerator,” he said. “That says a lot.

“I took a lot of heat for that. I even had a certain company send a record to me, which is nice — but I think they are like the eight- or ninth-best mayonnaise in the world. So I can’t say that’s much of an accomplishment, either. …

“I’ve talked about a lot of stuff so far up here this year: financial literacy, on and on and on. I randomly mentioned mayonnaise, and that’s what goes viral.

“I was like, ‘OK, let’s see if we can make something else turn into a big deal.'”

In his 10 years as the leader of the Seahawks’ defense Wagner has randomly surprised shoppers at a West Seattle Safeway by buying all their groceries for Thanksgiving.

He’s partnered with Seattle’s Low Income Housing Institute’s project to house the homeless. He’s led “Walk with Wagner” events to raise stroke awareness across Western Washington.

Now he’s giving to a military family, and to students to gain Silicon Valley business acumen.

No wonder Wagner was the Seahawks’ 2019 nominee for the NFL Walter Payton Man of the Year award.

No wonder the Seahawks players vote Wagner as a team captain year after year.

“Bobby continues to have an extraordinary voice for our team,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said last month, after Wagner co-led with Russell Wilson and Brown a team meeting the day after Seattle’s seventh loss in 10 games, at home to Arizona. “Guys really look up to him and really count on him.

“They always count on him to come through.”


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