RENTON, Wash. (AP) — At this point, enough time has passed and enough turnover has taken place that most of the players Cliff Avril knew in Detroit have moved on.
That part of Avril’s career seems a lifetime ago. Back when he was on the other end of the spectrum from what he’s experienced in Seattle, going to the playoffs in each of his four seasons since landing with the Seahawks.
“A lot of guys are spoiled here,” Avril said. “A lot of these guys have been every year they’ve been in the league. You may take it for granted from time to time. But I’ve been at the very bottom where you have no chance. You’re probably packed up and gone home already at this point. So I definitely appreciate it for sure.”
Avril’s past and present will clash this week when the Seahawks host the Lions in the wild-card round of the NFC playoffs. It’s another chapter in a career during which Avril has experienced the lowest of lows — a 0-16 season as a rookie in 2008 with the Lions — and the ultimate success of winning a Super Bowl title in his first year after signing with the Seahawks in 2013.
This meeting with his former team comes after the best regular season of Avril’s career. He finished with a career-best 11 ½ sacks, tied for sixth best in the NFL. He was selected for the Pro Bowl for the first time. He also discovered his philanthropic side.
It’s been a year of growth for Avril that now gets connected to his past.
“Detroit was a cool city to be in. I have nothing but love for the people of Detroit,” Avril said Tuesday. “But football-wise we were just never able to win anything. But I had a great (defensive) line coach and I attribute a lot of the stuff I’m doing to him, helping me get the foundation of being able to rush and understanding how to rush.”
Since arriving in Seattle, Avril has steadily seen his play time, production and impact increase. During the 2015 season, Avril set a career high with 47 tackles in the regular season. This season it was the increase in sacks, teaming with Michael Bennett and Frank Clark as the Seahawks tied with Denver for the third-best pass rush in the NFL with 42 sacks.
“I wish I had his speed,” Bennett said. “He’s super-fast. I wish I could do the things he could do around the edge and that’s pretty cool.”
The philanthropic part of Avril’s career season came with the decision to build a house in Haiti for every sack he made in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, which blew through the island country in the early fall. Avril, whose family is of Haitian decent, had previously given back by helping to rebuild an elementary school through his charity. He added the housing project — roughly $6,000 to $6,500 per house — after being contacted by Baltimore’s Elvis Dumervil, another player with Haitian heritage.
“They’re mostly built and made to be able to be shelter for a hurricane, and earthquakes as well,” Avril said. “The process of building it actually is local workers and basically kind of stimulates the economy a little bit as well, by doing it that way. … It’s a pretty cool little process. I can’t wait to go out there next offseason to see the progression.”