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One of the Seahawks' most die hard fans has never lived in Seattle. Leif Heide, 45, was born in Fargo, North Dakota and has lived in Minneapolis, Minnesota for decades. But he fell in love with Seattle when he went on a family trip when he was 6-years-old.
"I was a landlocked flatlander from North Dakota, never seen mountains before," said Leif. "The blues and the greens of the Cascades and the cedars, I was just really enamored with the geography of the area. That next year, in first grade, I recall my first grade teacher going around the class asking kids what they wanted to be when they grew up. My response was, 'I'm going to be somebody who lives in Seattle.'"
So two years later, when the Seahawks were born, Leif became a fan and has remained one ever since.
By day he's a counselor who works with locked up juvenile delinquents with felonies, but Leif took on a second job to fuel his Seahawks habit.
"In 2005, I decided to go to work for a subsidiary of Delta airlines working the ramp, building planes, parking planes, unloading planes, pushing planes. That has enabled me to stop taking road trips all the time, to Seattle games, and start flying to them."
He has traveled to nearly a hundred Seattle Seahawks games.
"I've seen them play in New Orleans, Miami, Pittsburgh, Denver three times, Kansas City three times, Green Bay, countless times in Seattle, Toronto last year when they played the Bills. New York City this year, Houston this year, Indiana this year."
And as we spoke, he was in Las Vegas, on a layover, waiting to catch his flight to Seattle for this weekend.
You may recognize Leif: he's appeared in an NFL commercial, he's featured prominently in a huge WAMU mural, and can be seen hobnobbing with other diehards like Mama Blue. He would be the dude with the giant beard.
"I usually just grow my beard for the football season and then shave it in the summer. But after our defeat last year, at the end of the Falcons game, I was unsatisfied and knew there was unfinished business. So I said I was going to grow the beard until the end of this season when we win the Super Bowl. Other people joined in and other people thought it was fun, so we started growing beards and we call it Hawk Dynasty, as a play on the Duck Dynasty show that I've never seen. Walking through any airport, people will shout out, 'Duck Dynasty!' at me and I always correct them: no no no, Hawk Dynasty!"
Leif says no one used to look twice at his Seahawks jersey, but now gets 'Go Hawks!' cheers when he travels around the country and the world. He was shocked when a customs agent in Europe stopped him to talk Seahawks football. I asked Leif what it is about the Hawks that he loves so much.
"There's just this euphoric frenzy. I've been to other sporting events, it's on a different level than Seattle. The 12th Man phenomenon. The rest of the league is catching up, they're figuring it out. The interactive quality and the participation is unrivaled of anything I've ever seen or been a part of, really. It's just a really special thing. It's euphoria, it's madness. I've brought Packers fans up there, I've brought Vikings fans up there; everybody leaves impressed with the anthropology of the place."
At the end of every interview I do I always ask the same question: is there anything else you want to add? Leif asked me to ask him if he had strong feelings about this weekend's game. So I asked him:
Do you have any feelings about this game?
"I have some strong feelings about this game, Rachel! I was there for the NFC Championship, I was there for the divisional rounds prior to the NFC Championship last time and I was at the divisional round last weekend. I think the 12th Men need to, especially if they haven't been to a game of this import, they need to soak it all up, go into the stadium early, save your voices, don't lose them in the parking lot. Let's present to the nation, let's present to the NFL what exactly we have there, why it's so special, and let's help our team kick some ass."