Seahawks fan from Walla Walla makes game-winning drive

National Guard Sgt. Renee Huggins drives the M1083 carrying the Seahawks’ quarterbacks on Fourth Avenue in Seattle during the team’s victory parade Feb. 5.

National Guard Sgt. Renee Huggins drives the M1083 carrying the Seahawks’ quarterbacks on Fourth Avenue in Seattle during the team’s victory parade Feb. 5.

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Seahawks super fan Renee Huggins had better than a front-row seat at the 12th Man Parade on Feb. 5 in Seattle to celebrate the home team’s Super Bowl victory.

She had one of the drivers’ seats.

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Renee Huggins

Huggins, right, and Master Sgt. Jason Usher in the cab of their quarterback conveyance.

Sgt. Huggins, a recruiter for the Washington National Guard at the Walla Walla Armory, was part of the Air & Army National Guard teams asked to drive the athletes on the 2-mile celebration parade route through downtown Seattle. On the day of the parade, she drove the 5-ton M1083 medium tactical vehicle that carried the quarterback team, including Russell Wilson and quarterback coach Carl Smith.

It hardly mattered that she had only about 12 hours’ notice to get from Walla Walla to Seattle in time for an early-morning start the day of the parade. For Huggins, a Seahawks fan since she was 8 — when her mom found her a sweet jacket at a thrift store — it was a chance to be part of history.

The noncommissioned officer who’s been at the Armory since last June, got the opportunity when 1st Sgt. Cliff Kells was asked to find drivers. One unit in Walla Walla is the Echo Company of the 181st Brigade, a transportation support battalion.

Kells initially offered the job to Staff Sgt. Denise Meadows, who instead extended the invitation to arguably the most passionate 12th Man at the Armory.

“She ultimately gave up this chance because I’m the bigger Seahawks fan,” Huggins said.

Huggins received a text with the offer the night before the parade, just before her 7:30 p.m. practice with the Walla Walla Sweets Rollergirls. She attended practice, went home to pack and took off for Seattle around 10 p.m. Arriving at 3 a.m., she could barely sleep with excitement before the 7 a.m. first safety briefing of the parade.

It wasn’t until later that morning she learned she’d be driving the quarterback truck.

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Jeff Hollett

The quarterbacks vehicle moves slowly through the jubilant throngs.

Just days before that, Huggins was cheering wildly for the Seahawks during their Super Bowl win against Denver as she sported a Percy Harvin jersey at a friend’s house.

By the morning of the parade, she was briefing Russell Wilson on how to get in and out of the M1083 safely.

Moving at a snail’s pace, the journey through the streets of Seattle took three and a half hours. The ocean of people had moved into tree branches and on top of bus shelters and pedestrian signs.

“I saw girls, like, hyperventilating and crying from seeing Russell Wilson,” Huggins said.

“It was just nonstop screaming and yelling for 31/2 hours, and every time I’d honk my horn they’d get louder.”

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Renee Huggins

Reflected in the driver’s-side mirror of Huggins’ transport vehicle, quarterback Russell Wilson autographs items for fans before the parade gets underway.

With Master Sgt. Jason Usher of the Tri-Cities in the passenger seat, Sgt. Danielle Brenner of the Washington Army Guard in front of the truck as a ground guide and the Seattle Police Department lining the sides of the truck, the vehicle navigated through the swelling crowds, stopping occasionally for a lone football rolling under the tires or, in one case, a small child straying too near the vehicle.

Apart from navigating safely, Huggins had one thing on her mind.

“I got to actually see the Lombardi Trophy. It was in the back of my truck,” she said. “I honestly really just wanted to stop the truck and get out and touch it.”

Instead she settled for a hat handed to her by Wilson at the end of the trip as they pulled up at Century Link Field. It was the first visit for Huggins, who’s never attended a game in person. But it won’t be her last trip, she vowed.

“I’m going this year,” she said. “That’s for sure.”

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, vickihillhouse@wwub.com or on Twitter at @VickiHillhouse.

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