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Michael Bennett photographed at his home in Kirkland on June 17, 2015.

Image: John Keatley

Michael Bennett doesn’t say things like “I’m just taking it one game at a time” or “We’re going to go out there and give it our all.” He compares winning to sex and Marshawn Lynch runs to the Underground Railroad. That aversion to cliches earned the Houston native a lot of fans in his first two years in Seattle. But when he made noise this off-season about a new contract—just one year after signing a four-year, $28.5 million extension—the 12th Man started wondering if he’d ever shut up. Probably best to just take that one day at a time. —Matthew Halverson

(How'd we get that shot? Go behind the scenes at our photo shoot with Bennett at his home in Kirkland.)

Houston was hot as hell
, but it was cool because I was a lifeguard during high school and worked at a water park. My brothers and sister kept up the stereotype that black people can’t swim because every time they came to the park I’d hear, “Oh they’re drowning, they’re drowning!” and it would be one of them. I can swim like a shark. My dad taught me to swim by throwing me in the pool. My natural instinct just kicked in.

My dad worked at Enron. One day he came home and was just like, “You know what, I lost my job, but I’ma make something happen.” I just remember him being really optimistic about what happened and determined to not let that shake him. I was never worried. I knew my dad’s the type of person who would never not put food on the table. It was a lifestyle change, though, because we had to move.

I come from a gritty family. Everybody’s fighters.

A gritty person just keeps grinding and grinding and knows that eventually they’ll attain their goal. True grittiness is not being worried about walking through the mud to get to the championship. It’s not pretty when you’re gritty, you know what I’m saying?

We moved around a lot, but I never had a problem making friends. People always liked me because I was just me; I would stay consistent.

You have to be mean to be a football player. Some of the best players don’t know how to be mean, and that’s why they can’t get their team to the next level. I’m supermean on the field. If my mom was out there, I’d run over her.

I come from people who tell it like it is. If you fat, my mom would be like, “You looking kind of fat these days.” All I know is to try to be honest about the situation. Plus, I think you owe the fans. Because they want to know the truth. They don’t want to sit back and watch you be a robot.

Nah, I’m not worried about giving other teams billboard material. I think if a team gonna whoop your ass, they gonna whoop your ass. If you gonna whoop their ass, you gonna whoop their ass. I think you either motivated or you not motivated.

What would it take to get me to shave my beard? Death.

Not getting drafted was the best thing for me. It’s kept me hungry. Even now, I feel like I’m undrafted. I take that approach to everything that I do, and man I’m working harder than anybody. I’m an underdog. There’s guys that’s done less than me in the NFL that’s making more money than me.

Hitting the quarterback is like sex. You know, when you first get in, and it just feels...special? That’s how it feels. Or when you grab him, it’s like your child is about to fall off a building and you just want to hold him so tight that you can’t let him go. That’s how it feels when you get the quarterback. And it does feel like sex too. Like mental sex.

Yeah, I’ll talk to quarterbacks. With Drew Brees, I’m like, “Oh, you’re too short.” Or Peyton Manning; I hit him and I was like, “Hey, Peyton! I hate your commercials!” Aaron Rodgers, same thing. He portrays himself like he’s a normal guy, but he’s supercocky.

Football is a deal with the devil. You’re getting paid good but one bad catch, one bad play could be the end of it. You have a lot of money but you could be paralyzed. I think if people understood that they wouldn’t get so worked up about people’s contract disputes. Because they’d be like, “Whoa, yeah, he’s gonna be 60 and might not have a knee. Pay him.”

Teams renege on our contracts all the time. Teams ask players to take a pay cut every day, and they say it’s just business. But when a player wants to rip up his contract, it’s not “just business.” It’s “unethical.” I don’t get it.

Even our coach’s contract is guaranteed. If a coach gets fired, he can take two years off. Because he’s still getting paid.

Do I truly care about someone else’s perception of me? No, not really. I just care about my kids and my wife, honestly. That’s why I don’t really get on Twitter and Instagram and all that stuff.

This society is pretty much I, I, I, I. How many likes I got on Twitter? How many Instagram likes I got? How many friends I got? How many Twitter followers I got? At the end of the day, whether people know it or not, subliminally they start becoming selfish and they don’t even realize it.

I don't have an ego.

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