Write Hand man: Hawks defensive tackle has penchant for poetry
Seattle Times staff reporter
KIRKLAND — This football player is different than most. Not by size or position but the unique hobby he boasts. On this subject, he's the Seahawks' authority, a jumbo-sized lineman who loves to write poetry.
On the football field, he's Norman Hand: 6-foot-3, 325-pound, run-stuffing monster of a defensive tackle. In the locker room, he's a military-fatigues-wearing, retro-jersey-collecting, joke-cracking, tattooed teammate.
With one stereotype-defying personality twist, he has a penchant for poetry. Which turns Hand into the lyrical lineman, the defensive dilettante, a rotund rhapsodist waxing about romance and love like every day is Valentine's Day.
"My poems basically deal with everyday life," Hand says. "It's real easy. I just drop down things about what's going on with me. Something comes to my mind, and I'll just start writing."
Hand knows what you're thinking. That quizzical look, those furrowed brows, the occasional rolling of the eyes. Followed by some variation, over and over, of the same question.
"A guy that size?" asks fellow lineman Rocky Bernard. "Writing poetry? That's kind of funny to me. But he's good at it. That's his thing, I guess."
The nine-year NFL veteran remembers that day about 13 years ago, when a poetry-writing friend turned him into a football player with an unusual hobby — a wrecking ball on the field, a renaissance man off it.
He saw the words scrawled on the page, listened to the way they lingered in the air and decided that poetry would be his thing.
"It was over after that," Hand says.
But football is a violent game and the NFL isn't exactly the place to show your sensitive side, so Hand hid his poetic talents during stints in Miami, San Diego and New Orleans until a Seahawks teammate uncovered them this season.
Since the secret came out, Hand says a few teammates have "borrowed" verses and doled them out to wives or girlfriends.
"I'm not naming names," Hand says, laughing and murmuring something about protecting the innocent. "Most people said it was pretty good, although I did get some mixed reaction. I'm just happy to help out."
With poems titled "Relationship" and "Love Addiction," Hand comes off sensitive, romantic and a tad sappy in the notebook he carries around filled with more than a decade's worth of work.
Hand writes the way he eats — whenever the urge hits him. Sometimes he scrawls verses in the training room. Other times he scribbles in front of his locker. He said it usually takes about 15 minutes to compose gems like these below.
There are clever lines: Relationships have their ups and downs/just like a good stock they will always come back around.
There are pop-culture references: Relationships come and go and are hard to find/my relationship with my girl reminds me of a song by Johnny Gill, My Oh My.
There are comparisons: love addiction is not a crime/it reminds me of a fine lady ready to be wined and dined.
There are odes to his wife, Tammy, whom Hand says has at least 30 of his poems: I can't help myself/I'm addicted to love/I have a special girl in life/and she can get it all/I will never let her go because she is my sweetheart for life.
"I like it," defensive end Antonio Cochran says. "It shows you that all of us are not barbarians like we're depicted to be."
But even Hand admits he can be a barbarian on the field, which delighted the Seahawks when they snagged the portly poet from the Saints in a draft-day trade this offseason for a sixth-round pick.
The Saints doubted Hand for two reasons, his lack of effectiveness against the run and a burgeoning waistline nearing 400 pounds, both of which Hand disputes. He slimmed down over the summer, taking 5-mile walks near his South Carolina home and watching his diet.
Hand missed the Seahawks' past two games with a toe injury. But he has already provided presence, organizing get-togethers among the defensive linemen and slinging jokes with the best of them in the loudest corner of the locker room.
He expects to play this weekend when the Seahawks host San Francisco in a night game best described as critical for both teams. And for Hand, who says, "I still have so much to prove."
"He brings that veteran leadership, man," Cochran says. "That big-brotherish-type attitude. You don't take advice from a lot of guys. But big Hand, he's one of them, man. You listen to him."
About everything? Even advice on writing poetry?
"I'll leave that one to big Hand," Cochran says. "He's a man of many interests."
He's a poet, a husband, a lineman, a brother. So what have we learned? That old lesson: Don't judge a book by its cover.
Greg Bishop: 206-464-3191 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2003 The Seattle Times Company