His West Point classmates dropped out of basic officer courses and entered their first postings in the United States Army.
Jon Rhattigan is changing the Seahawks’ games.
Two weeks after leading his teammates to Lumen Field for a symbolic franchise 12-flag match for fans, the undrafted Army rookie played a central role in the second half of the Seattle rally ahead of rival the NFC West San Francisco 49ers 28-21 Sunday at Levi’s Stadium.
After Russell Wilson’s 16-yard touchdown run gave the Seahawks (2-2) their first third-quarter lead at 14-7, the first West Point graduate to play for the Seahawks sprinted across the field in the Jason Myers kicks off. Around the 10-yard line, Rhattigan saw 49ers returner Trenton Cannon fall, drop the ball and then get back up trying to get his return back.
His Seahawks teammate DeeJay Dallas forced Cannon to fumble again with a hit. Rhattigan was there at the 14-yard line to recover the fumble.
Two games later, Wilson made his vintage touchdown pass, spinning and eluding Freddie Swain. Seattle led 21-7 and controlled the remainder of the game for their first divisional victory of the season.
“I was doing what I had to do, reading my blocks first,” Rhattigan said outside the visitors’ locker room in Santa Clara on Sunday afternoon. “From my periphery, I saw that he had muffled it, that he had it again. I saw someone come in and hit him again. And when he was coming down, I saw the ball fly out of his hands.
“Me being a soccer player, around soccer you just have to jump on it.
“These are the parts you love to have.”
When he hit the sidelines, Rhattigan received more hugs and handshakes than a plebe at the end of his freshman year at West Point.
“It was a great feeling,” said Rhattigan, “and, really, just because it’s a big game. It’s something that we preach every week in special teams: make a big game, prepare the game. attack to score. And that’s exactly what we did.
Rhattigan has carved out a role for himself on the Seahawks’ special teams while also serving as middle linebacker to Bobby Wagner, the All-Pro captain who never leaves games.
Ben Burr-Kirven had the current role of Rhattigan the previous two seasons for Seattle. The former Washington Husky tore his anterior cruciate ligament in his knee during a preseason game in August. He is on the injured reserve and absent for the season after an operation.
Still, a lingering injury all summer meant Rhattigan failed to bring the Seahawks out of the preseason finals on August 31. The team put him on waivers in an attempt to re-sign him to their 16-man training squad. Rhattigan cleared the waivers and Seattle re-signed him to the practice squad.
This kept him on postponing his duty of service to the US military.
He missed most of August with a hamstring injury that threatened to end his professional football career before it really began. Rhattigan had to show coach Pete Carroll and the Seahawks something in the final preseason game.
He shone on his debut with the Seahawks. He had five tackles, one tackle for loss, one pass defended and more visible play on special teams, in Seattle’s 27-0 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in the preseason final.
Technically, at the present time, the military considers Rhattigan to be part of the inactive reserve ready for three years. He is not yet officially a second lieutenant, as are all of his classmates.
“After my playing career, at any time, I will still need five years of active service or service in some capacity,” he said.
This week, instead of a crash course in learning a new unit as an infantry platoon leader, Rhattigan is taking a crash course preparing for the Seahawks’ quick game against rival Los Angeles Rams. (3-1) Thursday night at Lumen Field.
“You always have to be prepared,” Rhattigan said as he walked to the team bus to leave the Bay Area on Sunday. “Special teams are a big part of the game – as we’ve seen (against San Francisco).
“You just have to always stay prepared. Always stay ready.
A Seahawks gear man made sure to keep the ball to hand it to Rhattigan for his first professional fumble.
It’s absolutely a memory for a 22-year-old who was a replacement in the military his first three seasons before fully enjoying the only year he started at college last fall – until Seattle and the NFL.
“The equipment staff locked it for me,” he said with a smile.
He says the ball will go to the home of his parents, Debbie and Thomas, in Marco Island, Fla., On the Gulf Coast. They moved from Naperville, Illinois, to Rhattigan, just outside of Chicago.
“Yeah,” he said. “They are fed up with Illinois winters.”
This story was originally published 4 October 2021 11:54 a.m.