Now comes the next step.
Sowell is entering free agency for the second time in as many offseasons, and the Hernando, Miss., product isn’t sure what his future holds. Sowell appeared in 10 games, with six starts, for the Seahawks in 2016-17. Seattle was eliminated from the playoffs following a 36-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, who went on to lost to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl 51, in the divisional round in January.
“The standard is so high in Seattle,” Sowell said. “Getting to the second round of the playoffs, it really felt like a failed season with all the talent we had here. They make you think you’re about to win the Super Bowl here. I had already made my Super Bowl plans. I thought for sure we had a chance to win. That’s how confident they are here.
“When the season ends, it immediately just ends in the NFL. The next day you go to your exit meetings and, boom, it’s over. You go from having a schedule that every hour you have something to do, to having a bunch of free time until April. I find myself playing Barbies with my kids and taking them to school. It’s a totally different lifestyle. It’s a little hard to get over, a little hard to adjust.”
Sowell played his first NFL season with the Indianapolis Colts in 2012. A three-year stint with the Arizona Cardinals followed, and this time last year, prior to his first foray into free agency, he fully expected to re-sign with the team. However, the Seahawks offered more money and a better opportunity. Sowell started 12 of 16 games for the Cardinals in 2013. He appeared in a combined 32 games the next two seasons as a reserve.
Free agency is all about opportunity, and it only takes one team to make a commitment for a player such as Sowell to, say, uproot his family from the sunny, hot deserts of Arizona and head north to the rainy, cooler surroundings of the Pacific Northwest.
The 2017 league year and free agency period begin at 3 p.m. CT March 9.
“It’s a unique period of your life,” Sowell said of free agency. “You don’t know how long your career will be, and it’s a short period. You get to experience new places. Hopefully your team keeps you, but at the same time, whenever you get to renegotiate, it’s kind of fun. The last couple of years for me have been kind of fun; getting other offers and getting a chance to control your own situation. That’s ultimately what you want to be able to do in the NFL, is control your situation.
“(The Seahawks) have expressed interest in keeping me, but at the same time, I started quite a bit of games this year that I got on film. You never know what teams are looking at you, what teams like you or what they’re going to offer you. You never know what Seattle can afford at the moment, so you have to wait until March and see how it all shakes out. Last year at this time I had no clue that I even had any interest from the Seahawks. I was planning on going back to Arizona, and the Seahawks called me and flew me up there. They gave me a good offer and a chance to start games. It was fun.”
Where Sowell ultimately ends up is noting more than guesswork at the moment. What’s certain is the 6-foot-7, 309-pound tackles wants to keep playing. But a day in the not-so-distant future will arrive when his football career is over. And when it does, Sowell will head home.
Because, in the end, he’s still all Ole Miss.
“There wasn’t a guy on the team while I was on the team that loved Ole Miss more than me,” Sowell said. “I mean, I would kick my locker when we’d lose, which was a lot, and cry like a big (butt) baby. But I just loved Ole Miss, and that’s how I grew up. It means a lot to you, and it meant a lot to me while I was there.
“I won’t miss a game. If I’m fortunate enough to have a job that lets me off on the weekends, I’ll probably travel to every game, every year. I’ll definitely always support Ole Miss, and I’ll definitely make it to a lot of baseball games as well. Can’t wait.”
But before his transition to around-the-clock Ole Miss fan, he has a job to do, wherever that job may be. He’s open to any and all suitors.
“First off, I’m looking for who’s going to pay me the most because that’s what you have to do in the NFL,” he said. “In all seriousness, though, I always look at the team’s defense. Because as an offensive tackle, if you get a team that can’t stop anybody and all of the sudden you get down a ton of points in a game, you can find yourself in some bad situations. Like two-minute-drill and it’s pass, pass, pass. Obviously it’s going to be a lot harder to block a guy. I’ve always been on a team that’s had a good defense in the NFL. You don’t want to be on a team that can’t stop anybody.”