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Seattle's Russell Okung setting out on his own representing himself in future contract talks

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RENTON, Washington — Russell Okung is often asked to go it alone. It's the nature of his position as the Seattle Seahawks' left tackle.

So perhaps it should be no surprise that Okung is venturing out on his own when it comes to handling the details of his football future.

Okung, the first draft pick made by Pete Carroll and John Schneider in 2010, is entering the final season of his rookie contract. And instead of relying on an agent to handle any future contract negotiations, whether with the Seahawks or another franchise, Okung is going to handle the proceedings himself.

"I wasn't necessarily the first guy to do it and I hope I'm not the last either. I do want this to be memorable," Okung said. "If you remember anything, remember Seattle won a Super Bowl and remember I did this. That I wanted to take the reins of my life and make the decisions as well."

Okung first wrote about his decision in The Players' Tribune before the start of training camp. And while he's trying to keep it from being a lingering topic, it's a reality Okung is facing.

"It's been kind of a year and a half in the making and I've been thinking about it and really trying to learn more about the decision and try and get educated from every standpoint I possibly could," Okung said. "I want to know each perspective whether I'm open, that side or this side, or even from the front offices perspective, too. Once I had all that information I made my decision and sometimes the general assumption is I won't have any counsel at all. I have plenty counsel that are backing me and people that have a background in negotiation."

The decision to handle his own negotiations falls in line with Okung's general interest in business outside of football. He's been an active participant in NFL-sponsored business seminars during the offseason. This past offseason, Okung began working on an executive MBA from the University of Miami. He's also been forthright in meeting with influential members of the business community who have become mentors.

PHOTO: FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2015, file photo, Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung speaks to the media during the NFL Super Bowl Media Day in Phoenix. Okung is often asked to go at it alone as a left tackle, so it should be no surprise that when it comes to negotiating his next contract he's doing it without an agent. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)
FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2015, file photo, Seattle Seahawks' Russell Okung speaks to the media during the NFL Super Bowl Media Day in Phoenix. Okung is often asked to go at it alone as a left tackle, so it should be no surprise that when it comes to negotiating his next contract he's doing it without an agent. (AP Photo/Gregory Payan, File)

Matt McIlwain, managing director of Madrona Venture Group in Seattle, remembers meeting Okung for the first time and being impressed that the big offensive lineman had taken time to learn about the company and the venture capital process. That led to additional meetings and Okung taking the lead in planning an event connecting Seahawks players with technology entrepreneurs in the Seattle area.

"Russell has impressed me with his leadership skills, his curiosity for learning in new areas and his analytical and thoughtful perspective on a variety of business topics," McIlwain wrote in an email.

Okung wrote in his piece that an athlete has morphed into being a businessman who "understands the market and his own personal value, but has the self-assurance and financial know-how to do so." He said the interest in business started in college and he sees himself as a corporation just as much as a football player.

"We get a chance to get so many stages, to really influence. A lot of guys tend to see it from a community standpoint, but if I'm really thinking about my legacy and longevity, I've really got to understand the markets, really got to understand where I'm investing my money, the people that are handling my money. That's just part of it. Growing my business acumen, that is part of it."

Richard Sherman, the Seahawks' union representative with the NFLPA, said the players association will be involved from afar in making sure Okung is getting a fair deal when his next contract is negotiated and will provide whatever resources Okung needs.

For his part, Okung knows his decision and being public regarding his choice is not sitting well with agents.

"A lot of guys really want to understand it. They don't understand that they have the resources at hand to understand the numbers of their situation. I don't know why," Okung said. "If it has to take me putting an article out there for guys to understand what I'm doing, I'm all down for it. A lot of guys are reaching out just to understand my process. I'm eager to see how it goes."


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