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Seahawks players in demand around JBLM after big game

Service members, civilians line up hours in advance just to meet Baldwin, Kearse

Northwest Guardian

Published: 03:10PM March 6th, 2014

Northwest Guardian

Jermaine Kearse, left, signs a banner for Spc. Michael Abbey during a meet and greet at the Lewis Main Exchange. It was the Seahawks receiver’s third visit to his old home base, where Kearse’s father was stationed during his time with the Army.

With only in-store advertising, the word still spread far and fast: Seahawks were coming to Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

Subway contacted the Lewis Main Exchange to partner the launch of a new menu item with a meet and greet of Super Bowl champion receivers Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin of Seattle. Also making an appearance was Jared Fogle, spokesman for Subway, who travels all over the world visiting stores at military installations.

In anticipation of a large gathering, JBLM Exchange General Manager Patrick McGhee set up the meet and greet tables at two different sections of the store to divide the mass of fans into two lines.

Paul Mezentsoff arrived at the Exchange eight hours prior to the event to be first in line to meet Baldwin. Once the receiver signed his Seahawks football helmet, the staff sergeant with the 109th Military Intelligence Battalion ran across the store to join the line for Kearse. Before setting up at their respective tables, Kearse and Baldwin surprised those waiting in line by passing out food samples outside.

As Kearse got situated at his meet and greet table, Baldwin asked the second-year player for his autograph. It was a candid moment that also showed how proud Baldwin is of his teammate.

"When he first came in, he was lacking a little bit of confidence," Baldwin said. "He's not lacking that now by any means. Being able to watch him have the success that he did in the Super Bowl and scoring that touchdown ... that was a proud moment."

Kearse's touchdown in Super Bowl XLVIII is a play Kearse can hardly remember because it happened so fast. He said when he watches the film he has to watch it 15 times and tell himself that he made that play in which he shook off multiple defenders to score a touchdown.

"Just having the will to get to the end zone and make the play for the team," he said.

Last week's event was Kearse's third visit to his old home base of JBLM, where Kearse's father was stationed during his time with the Army.

"To be able to show support for the troops here who are fighting every day for our country, it feels good to come back and show our appreciation for them," Kearse said. "A lot of 12s live on the military base and they cheer for us. It feels good to come back and cheer for them."

During a post-game interview minutes after the Seahawks won the Super Bowl, Kearse gave a shout out to Lakewood, one of several local towns that showed support for its hometown football star.

Since the Super Bowl the Seahawks have been jet-setting all over the map for interviews and media appearances. Their schedule is finally starting to mellow out, but given the opportunity to visit the base, Baldwin was eager to volunteer.

"Whenever I get the opportunity to meet people on military bases I jump at the opportunity," Baldwin said. "My grandfather was in the Air Force and I know how much it meant to him for people he saw on TV or in sports to come and speak with them."