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Russell Okung: Return to Seahawks is 'very possible'

SEATTLE -- On Thursday night, Seattle Seahawks left tackle Russell Okung launched his GREATER foundation, which aims to connect underserved students to the technology community.

A month from now, he could be on a team in another city.

It's been a busy offseason for Okung. He had surgery after sustaining a shoulder injury in the team's divisional round playoff game against the Carolina Panthers. He's developed a program to help youth in the community he's called home for the last six years. And in a few weeks, he will hear pitches from teams as he represents himself without an agent in free agency.

Before Okung's launch party officially got started, he took some time to talk about everything that's going on, including the possibility of re-signing with the Seahawks.

Q: Given your uncertain future in Seattle, what happens with the foundation if you sign elsewhere?

Okung: I'm a fixture here in Seattle. It's a place I live. I have a house out here. This is where I want to be for the rest of my life. So regardless of whatever happens in football, this is where I'm going to be. I'm committed to Seattle, and so far it's been very committed to me. There's a lot of great work I get to do out here, and I see it as a privilege to be here.

Q: Have you had any formal conversations with the Seahawks since the season ended about re-signing?

Okung: Yeah, we've had some conversations. We've been going back and forth. It's going to come down to when free agency starts. So we may figure something out, we may not. It's up in the air for now for us to come to terms.

It's very possible that I could stay here. But I know my value, and I'm not going to settle for anything less than that. If it works out, great. And if it doesn't, that's great as well.

Q: It recently was reported that you have retained former agent and Washington Redskins executive J.I. Halsell to counsel you. What was the reasoning behind bringing him on board?

Okung: He's more of a consultant. He adds an analytical as well as a support value. So that's his realm. But I'll handle all negotiations, direct negotiations, at the table myself.

Q: Was having him as a consultant always part of the plan?

Okung: It was always in my plans. I think the common assumption is I don't have correct counsel, and I do. Some people are just starting to understand that.

Q: What inspired you to build your Greater Foundation around this specific cause?

Okung: Honestly, I've been saying that I think Seattle is one of the best places in the world. I think there's just a huge space for innovation as well as technology. But what I didn't like as I was going to the south end and to the central district is these kids had no exposure, no access to the technology. They couldn't partake in that dream. So I wanted to be able to share that with them. It's been a great gift to me from some really great entrepreneurs and great venture capitalists out here. I wanted to share that as well too. That's how Greater was formed in a sense up here in Seattle. ... I think minorities, blacks, Latinos, women deserve to be a part of this, regardless of your socioeconomic status. You deserve to understand everything that the technology sector has to offer.

Q: What's the practical way of getting kids to interact and learn from these leaders in technology?

Okung: It starts with people who believe in the vision, who believe in the dream. We talk about servitude all the time. That's our mantra as a foundation. So what we do is in partnering with these local organizations ... we're at Seattle Urban Academy. We're bringing leadership and coding workshops there too. We're at Urban Impact, City Year, and we're also collaborating with TAF to work with them in terms of entrepreneurship and building programming around that. We're very grass-roots oriented. We're down with the people, and we're down with getting our hands dirty. We work with individuals who don't mind that. If we can be the medium for that, I think a lot of companies now, there's a race to understand diversity and inclusion. So if we can be the medium for that and buffer that, we'll do really well.

Q: What are you hoping some of the tech leaders take away from this?

Okung: I've always thought the technology sector could look more like America. America is very diverse. There's different people from all sorts of backgrounds, all sorts of dreams and aspirations. I think the technology sector has kind of missed on that. But there are some great people out here in Seattle who believe it can be better. So as I've been creating those relationships, I found out there's a lot of people who believe in the same things. I'm a huge advocate of STEM. I'm a huge advocate of kids getting the best resources they can possibly get. Just working with everybody now to make it happen.