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Originally published Tuesday, July 7, 2009 at 12:00 AM

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Jerry Brewer

Seahawks coach Jim Mora finds new mountain to conquer

Seahawks coach Jim Mora is climbing Mount Rainier for charity, and taking the NFL commissioner with him.

Seattle Times staff columnist

ASHFORD — There's a rumor circulating that Seahawks coach Jim Mora, who's 47 going on 21, took a physical recently, and the treadmill wasn't fast enough to elevate his heart rate high enough for the doctor to test him.

It sounds like the Seahawks have hired the new-school Paul Bunyan.

When asked about the tale Monday, Mora chuckled and hemmed and hawed for a while before declaring, "You'd have to ask the doctors about that one."

Good answer. It's better to leave it as an urban legend.

"Yeah, I'm not going to comment on it," Mora said, grinning. "I'm not aware of that."

This week, however, the coach is facing the ultimate test. Mora is among a group that includes NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, 50, and Seahawks chief executive officer Tod Leiweke, 49, attempting to climb 14,411-foot Mount Rainier. They hope to get to the top by Wednesday. And they're doing it all to help the United Way of King County's Response for Basic Needs, which provides assistance for families, disabled people and seniors who've suffered because of the economic downturn.

Their "Climb for the Community" is a great cause. But right now, they're excited and a little nervous about the challenge they are facing.

"I never would've thought about doing this before," Goodell said. "It was not even on my Bucket List, as they say."

Goodell is here because Leiweke invited him during a league meeting last December. Goodell was hustling toward a room to start the meeting when the Seahawks' CEO stopped him and said, "I've got a challenge for you."

"What is it?" Goodell wondered.

"I want you to climb Mount Rainier with us," Leiweke said.

Goodell agreed. Later, on his way home, he started to realize what he had agreed to do.

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"I was thinking, 'Oh my. What did I just do?' " The Commish said, laughing. "I really didn't know what it entailed, frankly."

He has a better idea now. After a climbing session Monday, Goodell marveled at the technique required to climb a mountain. It's not just about fitness. To him, it's a mental challenge, too, from remembering the proper movements to braving the elements to appreciating the teamwork involved.

The climbers are lucky to have two of the best mountaineers alive as their guides — the legendary Ed Viesturs and Peter Whittaker — but it still won't be easy.

"There's really a technique to climbing," Goodell said, describing what he's learned so far. "It's not just putting one foot in front of the other. There's a technique to the way you move your foot and how your body posture is and how you can take more efficient steps. And I never really thought about that. It seems like such a simple thing just putting one foot in front of the other. Absolutely not!"

Mora, a native, never grew up dreaming of this. He didn't become intrigued until he returned to Seattle two years ago to join Mike Holmgren's Seahawks staff. Although he's in terrific shape and runs up Tiger Mountain regularly, he knows this could be an incredible accomplishment.

"I've been looking at Mount Rainier since I was a little boy, but I can't say that I ever aspired to climb," Mora said. "So now that I've kind of set my sights on this, I don't really have any goals past that as far as mountains are concerned. In terms of going to Mount McKinley or something like that after this, I don't know. I'm too old. And I've got too many kids running around that need me."

Besides, he has another monumental task ahead: Restoring the Seahawks' luster after a 4-12 record in 2008.

And Goodell needs to run his league, knowing full well that there will be 31 other teams looking to challenge him in some way.

"They'll be telling me, 'You accepted the Seahawks' challenge. What about us?' " he said, laughing. "This will be big for me. Having never done this before, I'll take it as a great accomplishment."

Just don't expect him to listen to any more of Leiweke's bright ideas.

"If he does, I'm going to run the other way," Goodell joked. "I'm not going to listen to him."

Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or jbrewer@seattletimes.com.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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About Jerry Brewer

Jerry Brewer offers a unique perspective on the world of sports. Also check out Jerry's Extra Points blog, where he talks with readers about his columns.
jbrewer@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2277

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