During a meeting the day after the Seattle Seahawks lost to Atlanta in the divisional round of the playoffs, Pete Carroll announced to his staff that assistant head coach/defense Rocky Seto had something to share.
He was leaving the team to become a pastoral minister.
"Just when I mentioned coach [Carroll], I started breaking down," Seto told ESPN.com.
Seto, a Christian, has been with Carroll for 16 years -- first at USC and then with the Seahawks. He worked his way up from a quality control coach to assistant head coach during Seattle's impressive run of success.
But seven years ago, when Carroll left USC for Seattle, Seto strongly considered a new path. He had long considered going into ministry, and it felt like the time might be right.
Carroll offered him a job though, and his wife’s family was from Bellevue, Washington. The opportunity made too much sense to pass up. But the idea of becoming a pastor was always in the back of his mind, and he discussed it with Carroll often.
"The Bible teaches about a compulsion that you just cannot deny -- a growing conviction, a growing desire to do pastoral ministry," Seto said. "And it’s been something that’s just been growing over the last seven years.
"[Carroll] and I have actually talked about this over the years. And he’s been supportive. I don’t think he ever thought that I would do it, because we’d talked a lot about this, and I’d never done it. He could see that this was a really good setup for us, which it was. When I told him, he was really supportive.
"I think that’s the hardest part. Although I’ll miss the football game-planning, preparation, it’s the relationships that are the hardest part. And being with him for the last 16 years, he’s been an incredible mentor. That’s when I broke down twice -- when I talked to the staff about this and the team about it. When I mentioned what a privilege of a lifetime serving under him for the last 16 years, that’s when I broke down twice, started crying. He’s the one that’s the hardest to leave."
Seto started seminary work through Liberty University last year and has enrolled in two more classes. He has already begun preaching in the state of Washington.
Seto has four children who range in age from 5 to 11. He made it clear that the reason he’s leaving the Seahawks is because he feels a calling to teach the Bible. But Seto is excited about what the lifestyle change will mean for him as a father and a husband as well.
"I might be able to take them to school. I might be able to coach their teams. These things I believe are going to be more available to me," Seto said. "And that was a big part of it. I thought to myself, next to love for God, my love for my wife and my children, I have a great burden to not miss that window.
"I’ve talked to so many legendary coaches, Hall of Fame-type coaches. And all of them tell me, 'You’ve got to make sure you do it right with your family.' There’s almost a sense of -- regret’s a hard word, but a sense of maybe sadness that they weren’t able to do it and hit it while the iron was hot with their children. It’s not like you still can’t have a relationship with your children, but there’s something special in the formative years when your children are still children."
As a coach, Seto said what he's most proud of is being able to spread the idea of rugby-style shoulder tackling.
"In terms of my involvement with the game, this is the biggest contribution that I’ve been able to be a part of," he said. "And this is going to be coach Carroll’s biggest contribution.
"I really believe that our game is at a very critical stage where the game of football that we love could go away forever. What I mean by that is this shoulder tackling thing is the answer to help save the game."
Seto realizes that many will question his decision, but he has no doubt that going into ministry is the right call for him and his family at this stage in his life.
"Even people that are very close to me think I’m crazy for doing this," he said. "And I could understand. The ministry is a different lifestyle from coaching in the NFL. I get it. Financially, it’s night and day. That’s one aspect of it. But in many people’s eyes, it makes zero sense. [To me], it makes perfect sense to follow the lord where he has us going."