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Home Again Ex-Vandal Friesz Thrilled To Be Playing With Hawks

Some theories hold that golf stands as a parable for life.

It’s a game damnably eager to break hearts and spirits, and uncannily able to detect character flaws - and then expose them for all to see, revealing the weak as the sniveling, puking dogs they truly are.

All in a pastoral setting, of course.

On the other hand, steadfast and earnest effort - in the face of spiritual collapse - generally reaps eventual reward.

So let us examine the play of John Friesz in the Bank of America Quarterback Classic Friday at The Coeur d’Alene Resort.

Friesz, now with the Seattle Seahawks, had the burden of playing in front of a hometown crowd.

Beyond that, he was teamed with Denver’s John Elway, the best golfer in the tournament, Duane Hagadone, who owns the course and pretty much everything else within the radius of normal vision, and George Blanda, who may be the highest scorer in the history of the National Football League, but who gets around the golf course with a total remarkably close to his age - 68.

So what does Friesz do in front of a sizable first-tee gallery? He executes a drive so spectacularly awful that its total distance would not have moved the firstdown chains.

After nine holes, Friesz was 9-over and threatening to finish in the 90s. The score, not the temperature.

Except for one thing. The determined Friesz played the next eight holes brilliantly - at even par - and finished with an entirely admirable 82.

The point of this preamble is simple: that after five up-and-down NFL seasons, now with his third team in three years, the 28-year-old Friesz is probably entering the back-nine of his career.

And the situation looks promising for a Friesz rally.

“This is my third team now, and you learn from each situation,” Friesz said. “Overall, it seems like the Seahawks have it all tied together and have the right attitude and the right vision - and that’s to get to the playoffs right now. That’s a good goal for us and we’ll take it from there.”

Friesz understands that the role of Seahawk savior has been already cast - with Rick Mirer across the marquee.

But the consensus is that Friesz serves as an upgrade from former backup Dan McGwire, since he has proven in his 27 starts for San Diego and Washington that he can effectively operate an NFL offense. Now, he will get a chance to do so for new Seahawks coach Dennis Erickson, who recruited him to the University of Idaho 11 years ago.

“Obviously, there’ll be a little different philosophy when Mirer’s in the game than when I’m in there,” Friesz said. “He’s got more mobility and he’ll get out around the corner a little bit.”

The Seahawks, as a whole, appear ready to turn the corner, too, Friesz said.

“It’s hard for me to say, since I wasn’t there a year ago, but from everything everybody is saying - the players behind doors - the ability they’ve acquired has been upgraded tremendously.

“If we can do anything near what we’ve done in the past with the running game, then I’m sure the passing game is upgraded and we’re going to be a good offense,” Friesz said. “In the past, it’s kind of been a good defensive team that ran the ball and tried to stay in it at the end. But with Erickson’s philosophy of throwing the ball added to that, I see no reason we shouldn’t do pretty well.”

Perhaps ironically, the biggest adjustment Friesz has had to make is learning Erickson’s offense - the prototype of which he ran in his years as a Vandal. And that may stand as a testament to Erickson’s capacity to evolve.

“It has changed a lot; he’s evolved and changed it over the years,” Friesz said. “You have to do that in order to be successful; you can’t take something that’s going pretty well and stay with it forever - defenses figure it out.”

The 6-foot-4 Friesz appears fit and lean at 215 pounds. That’s because he’s working out four days a week at the Hawks’ headquarters in Kirkland.

The fitness fanaticism is a product of new Hawks strength coach Dana LaDuc. “The turnout (for offseason workouts) has been great and he has just been killing us,” Friesz said. “He’s got us on the field running three days a week and then in the weight room. All those things add up to making a good team.”

What the Seahawks offered Friesz, aside from a $1.45-million, two-year contract, was a chance to come home and play again.

And whereas previous off-seasons have left him little time to return to his home in Hayden Lake, the proximity of his new employer allows him to come home for threeday weekends.

“It’s been a great off-season,” Friesz said. “The whole situation looks very good for me.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo

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Tags: golf

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