CHENEY, Wash. — Quick . . . someone says, "What a jerk!" and without mentioning any newspaper people, who's the first to come to mind?
Thought so. You watch him thump his chest, gesture and yell at his teammates, cop an attitude when he doesn't get the ball, and then open his mouth to speak, and, well, you can have Ricky Watters.
San Francisco didn't keep him, and he had just scored three touchdowns in a Super Bowl. Philadelphia made no attempt to sign him this off-season, and the Eagles have no one else who can score.
Seattle signed him, presumably because the $15-billion Microsoft whiz kid who now owns the Seahawks got some kind of e-mail suggesting it, and since he knows nothing about football, what's $13 million?
But here it is, more than 100 degrees, practice has been over for an hour and only one player remains behind, the one you never would have guessed.
Watters, 29, is sweating in place patiently, posing for pictures--"Take another," he says--and chatting with every youngster who asks for his autograph, reminding some to say, "Thank you."
A youngster tells Watters proudly that he could buy only one jersey for school and he has chosen No. 32, "because you're my hero."
Watters gives the kid a high-five, and tells him he's honored, but you know what, he adds, "My parents were my heroes."
Coaches and players have gone to lunch, but no one, and there are still more than 100 fans lining the fence, will leave here without Watters' autograph. And after visiting training camps for almost two decades, watching players brush past children or walk and sign at the same time to avoid being stopped, this is an impressive event.
And Watters has been doing this every day. Sometimes twice a day, removing his gloves and sweatbands and giving them to the kids, giving away so much that the Seattle Seahawks' equipment manager had to say something before the billionaire owner raised heck.
What a guy!
"It kills my mom more than it does me some of the things people say about me," Watters says. "She asks me, 'Who are they talking about?'
"It's always been important to me that people know what I'm like. I have these big ears and I could hear people, who didn't even know me, saying terrible things about me, and it was like they were cutting me with a knife.
"Sometimes I felt like I was going to bleed to death."
Watters, while appearing to be cocky from the outset, says, "That's inaccurate. I was just a kid with a lot of money, but not knowing where to live or even shop while trying to find my way on a team with such superstars like Jerry Rice, Steve Young and John Taylor. I know now blending in takes time, but I didn't know that at the time.
"I'm always going to be fiery, but people misunderstand. I get knocked down and get up pounding my chest and I'm yelling at myself for not picking up my foot and it looks like I'm mad at my offensive linemen. I'm mad at me."
He holds the NFL playoff record for five touchdowns scored in a game, has rushed for more than 1,000 yards in each of his last three seasons, and since leaving San Francisco--without a running game--the 49ers haven't been the same.
Still, Watters is known best for his boorish behavior, the spoiled brat pointing to the press box and demanding the coaches upstairs get him the ball more often.
In his first game with the Eagles, he made little effort to catch a pass over the middle, later infuriating the Philadelphia faithful by snorting, "I'm not going to trip up there and get knocked out. For who? For what?"
Eagles' safety Mike Zordich told the Philadelphia Daily News, "We'll miss his production, but I don't think we'll miss the way he acts on the sideline."
In San Francisco, Watters suggested Young had choked after an NFC title-game loss. In Philadelphia, he routinely stormed past reporters only to appear later on his TV show to deliver his biting comments.
He carries so much negative baggage with him it's a wonder he can gain any yards. "You have to know Ricky," said former 49er center Jesse Sapolu in discussing Watters a few years ago. "I think one of the reasons he's such a good player is that he doesn't let the past wreck his concentration."
But his past was beginning to damage his future prospects for success after an unhappy divorce with the Eagles, so he sought out someone to improve his image.
"I put it to him when I first met him," agent Leigh Steinberg says. "I told him my perception was he was a whiner, always selfish, wanting the ball and caring more about himself than the team and unable to get along in San Francisco in an organization that gets along with everyone.
"After you spend some time with him you see something quite different. The thing is his instincts are to be outgoing and friendly, but he had gotten beaten up so badly in the press that he viewed the world as a hostile place. The key was to get past his image and get closer to people so they could get to know him.