Monday, July 15, 2013
Russell Okung's run with bulls in Pamplona
By Mike Sando
Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung didn't need to run with the bulls through the streets of Pamplona to prove he'd overcome injury fears from earlier in his career.
Okung did it anyway, though, and with no regrets.
"You hear this big shot go off and the bulls are on their way," he said during a phone interview Monday. "Before you know it, every plan you had, every strategy you had is out the window. You are running for your life."
"You get to show your courage," said Russell Okung, pictured with agent Peter Schaffer. "We definitely did that. Those bulls are some big animals."
The fourth-year pro, named a Pro Bowl starter last season, compared the experience to pass blocking on third-and-long, except with potentially fatal consequences. Fifteen participants have died over the past century.
"There was a thickness in the air and it was really electric," Okung said of the pre-run atmosphere. "There were people jumping around and singing and yelling. You hear this big shot go off and the bulls are on their way. ... It's almost a surreal feeling to get there."
Okung and his agent, Peter Schaffer, said officials twice tried to disqualify them, presumably because they were wearing cameras on their shirts. Each time, Okung and Schaffer sneaked back in, knowing they couldn't go all the way to Spain without following through.
"I give Russ a lot of credit," Schaffer said. "I've been in the business 25 years and haven't gotten a request to go to Pamplona. It's one of those things you think would be cool to do, but never think to implement it."
I asked Okung whether he'd taken out any additional insurance policies.
"Besides praying, no," he said.
Is the experience as risky as it sounds?
"Yes, it is," he said.
Okung said he also hopes to swim in Devil's Pool at Victoria Falls in Zambia, where visitors can swim to the edge of a giant waterfall.
"I really want to get the most out of life," Okung said.
Okung earns more than $8 million per season under terms of his contract with the Seahawks. Suffering an injury running with animals weighing more than 1,000 pounds would qualify as a non-football injury in the extreme. Okung knows he'd face criticism for his choices if he suffered a serious injury playing basketball or another sport, let alone running with beasts three or more times the weight of Red Bryant, the biggest defensive lineman Okung faces in practice.
"You get to show your courage," Okung said. "We definitely did that. Those bulls are some big animals."