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A Star Defender of Family Life: Q&A With the Seahawks' Michael Bennett

Michael Bennett talks about balancing life as a Seahawk and life at home with this family

After one of the most intense comeback wins Seattle Seahawks ball fans have ever witnessed, the 2015 NFC Championship win over Green Bay, there was a moment memorable for its playfulness: 6-foot 4-inch defensive end Michael Bennett hopped on a police bike that was a size too small and rode around CenturyLink Field. 

The bike was auctioned off for $10,000, with half going to Seattle Police Department's efforts against child abuse and exploitation. The other beneficiary, Bennett's OCEAN Foundation aims to fight Obesity through Community, Education, Activity and Nutrition. Currently, the program is held in three Hawaii locations with plans for expansion in Washington state.

Bennett lives in Kirkland with his wife, Pele and three daughters, ages 8, 4 and 1. In the spirit of Father's Day, Bennett talked with ParentMap's Hilary Benson about how a Superbowl-ring wearing dad can maintain work-life balance.

You have the kind of job that requires extraordinary focus, so how do you maintain that separation between the demands of work and the needs on the homefront? 

Actually, I think of it as one and the same. My family is what keeps me going, if I didn't have my family I wouldn't be where I am, it's the most important thing to me. The thing that's different isn't so much the time issue, but it's that I have to be so aggressive at work, then come home and try to be calm, you know what I mean?

Talk to me about that. How do you shift gears mentally?

That's one of the hardest things to do because you're so built up with so much testosterone. For me, I come home and I've got three daughters and they're all jumping on me, they want to play games, stuff like that and it's different. So you have to just switch over and calm down and not bring your work home. I think that ride home is very important when you've had a long day at work.

So that point is an important one I'd like to follow-up: Sports psychologists speak to the challenge for high-level athletes of setting aside the violent tendencies needed to succeed on a pro football field. How do you do it?

You just have to have the will to not let football control everything you do. A lot of times guys let it control who they are and it consumes them. You have to figure out what's your zen. Is it reading? Is it riding a bike? You have to figure out how to have a peaceful moment at the end of the day.

What is your zen?

Playing with my kids. Like I said, I've got three daughters so it's kind of cool just to chill back and let them do what they do. I also like having just a regular life, going to my daughter's soccer game, that kind of thing.

What's it like being a fan at your daughter's soccer games, on the sidelines are you competitive?

No, that's the beauty of it, the beauty of her just being a child. They can enjoy the sport for what it is, the game that it is. It doesn't have to be a headache. Just to watch the kids play is pure happiness. But then, man, some of the parents on the sidelines, they'll be like, "My daughter can do this, and my daughter that…" and it's not right. 

Do you ever have to bite your tongue with other parents?

Yes, I do. The child has to grow into being an athlete, the parent can't make them do it, and there's no one right way. I always say keep it fun because nobody's getting paid right now. People think it's easy to be successful, it takes time and there are a lot of ups and downs. Parents need to let kids be balanced, let their kids do a lot of different things not just sports all the time.

What did you do growing up?

I loved fishing, my dad always loved fishing. I grew up in Houston. I was a lifeguard there from when I was 14 years old until I was 18, I love the water and the beach. My wife is from Samoa, from the Islands so we all love the beach. Actually most of my off-season is in Hawaii where we have a great time.

So, when other players — particularly younger players — see you choosing to spend time with your family do they think you're crazy?

A lot of times people talk about marriage as being so terrible, like it's prison and the only time to have fun is when they're not with their wife or family. But when the young guys watch us older guys now, we're the opposite of that. We want to make sure they understand what's the most important, that your wife is your best friend. When they see that then they respect marriage a little more. Running around for a long time is not that fun.

In your career, you've really had to show resilience before making it big here. How have your own career struggles been a lesson to your kids?

I tell my girls all the time, 'Stay focused.' Failure is a part of success, if you fail then get back up and keep trying. See me, see what I did? I say, 'Hey your dad fell down', and when I've told my second grader that, she bounces back. It's fun when she thinks like that.

I can't let you go without asking about the season coming up…

Hopefully, we get back to where we were last year, but win that Superbowl game this time around. It's exciting to see how the fans — how everyone — is super hungry to see us play. You walk through the city and we get so much respect even though we lost that (Super Bowl) game, it makes you enjoy the game a little bit more.

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