Ken Flajole '77 steps into coaching job under Seahawks' Mike Holmgren
By Kevin Brown '79
Ken Flajole '77 left the Northwest 19 years ago to see if he could make a living coaching football. This winter, he returned with the answer.
Flajole, a former PLU linebacker who started his coaching career as an assistant with the Lutes in 1977, came "home" in January when he was named to the staff of the Seattle Seahawks' new head coach, Mike Holmgren. Flajole, 45, is in charge of the team's defensive backs.
Flajole and his wife, Teri (Whitmer '78), have been away from Washington since he accepted a coaching job at the University of Montana in 1980. That six-year stint was followed by coaching stops at Texas-El Paso (1986-88), Missouri (1989-92), Richmond (1993-94), Hawaii (1995) and Nevada (1996-97).
Last year, Flajole made the jump to the NFL, serving as the quality-control coach for defense under Holmgren in Green Bay. Then, less than a week after the Packers' season ended with a 30-27 loss to San Francisco in the NFC playoffs, Holmgren became head coach of the Seahawks. Among his first moves was to invite Flajole and the majority of his Packer staff to join him in Seattle.
The family's decision to leave Green Bay was not an easy one. "Our oldest daughter is going to be a senior in high school," said Flajole, who has two daughters, Kelly, 17, and Kori, 15. "And Green Bay is a great town."
In the end, though, Flajole opted to go west. Within days of his hiring, he was on the job in Kirkland, grading free agents, evaluating college talent and getting acquainted with the players he inherited.
Although more than 20 years removed from his days as a Lute player (1974-75) and assistant coach (1977-78), Flajole still puts to use lessons he learned from PLU coach Frosty Westering and former defensive coordinator Paul Hoseth.
"I have a lot of affection for both those guys," said Flajole, a Lute co-captain his senior year. "They were both mentors to me when I got out of college and started my coaching career."
Among the things Flajole learned from Westering was the importance of making the game fun. That's true, Flajole said, whether you are coaching in Parkland or in the pros.
"The game still has to be inherently fun for the players," Flajole said. "If it's not, then the money won't be enough…Certainly we (in the pros) are judged on wins and losses, but I think
players play better if they enjoy what they are doing."
Westering has enjoyed watching the personal and professional development of his former protégé.
"He's a great people person," Westering said of Flajole. "He relates to players well. We watched that growth when he was here . . . All the things we tried to teach about goal setting and team unity, he has taken them and put them to good use.
"We are proud of him."
Kevin Brown '79 is sports editor of the Skagit Valley Herald. He lives in Mount Vernon, Wash., with his wife, Gladys, and sons Ryan, Kyle and Colin.