I was in Cincy for 10 and a half years.
More than a decade, man.
And I barely had two hours to pack up and get out of there.
That’s the thing they don’t tell you about getting traded: It happens real slow….. and then real fast. Like, I knew my journey as a Bengal was coming to an end for a couple of weeks — but that didn’t guarantee anything was going to happen this season about it.
Then all of a sudden, at the end of October?? Man, just like that, I got a call from the facility — saying not to come in on Monday.
My mind started racing. Finally — but is it a trade or release?
Stayed home that day, like they said, and I’ll tell you what: that was a scary day, for real. That was an unnerving situation..... after I was with the same team all those years, after I never foresaw myself putting on another jersey, to go from that to not knowing where you’re about to go. Had my agent hitting up my phone with all these possible scenarios — but not the scenario, you know what I mean? All I knew in that moment was that my time on this Bengals bus was up.
Didn’t have a clue where the next bus was headed.
I was in Cincy for 10 and a half years. More than a decade, man. And I barely had two hours to pack up and get out of there.- Carlos Dunlap
But like I said: slow……. then fast.
And when my agent said it was going to be Seattle, all of a sudden, I was like, “WAIT — hold up. Yes.”
Yes. Like, it just hit differently, when it finally became a real thing.
It hit right.
See, if I had to leave Cincy — here was my big vision: I wanted to go somewhere that had two things. One, a group of guys that have SUPER BOWL potential. And two, a situation where I could come in and contribute. And I’m talking about really contribute. Like, I didn’t want to just hook up with some team that was already cruising on their way, you know? I knew I had — I know I have — high-level football left in me. And I didn’t want to just go ride a bench somewhere and get a ring from the sidelines. I love playing this game, man. I wanted to come in and work, and grind, and compete.
I wanted to come in and be a part of something special.
And after doing some research, I felt better than ever that Seattle could be a perfect fit. What I saw was how the Seahawks were 5–1, those were the headlines — but they needed a pass rush.
Prayed with my parents about it. Talked with my agent about it. Called Sidney Rice (who’s from the Low Country like me, but also is the biggest Seattle guy I know), to hear how it was playing in that area. Asked for his thoughts on how I would fit in. That call with Sid really confirmed a few things in my vision. So now my mind was made up. I told Drew, “Let’s get it done, whatever it takes.” I took out a pen and wrote down, Chapter II. The Second Opportunity.
Once the trade was official, I got a call from Coach Pete — and it was LIT!!
Coach Pete, man. That dude. They need to bottle up whatever energy he’s tapping into and fuel some cars with it. Or light some cities with it. Because I’m telling you, we get on the phone, and he’s charged up!! And not with this serious “coach” energy, either. Like — it’s a positive energy. It’s this contagious through the phone type energy.
He goes, “Carlos!! We’ve played against you a few times. I know what type of player you are — and I know what you like to do. That’s all I want you to do. We want to help you do what you do. You're going to play our Leo position.”
I won’t lie, I had to ask Coach what a Leo is — but once he told me, I was all in.
Next thing I knew….. I was on a plane to Seattle.
Earlier this year, when things weren’t going so great in Cincy, I’ll be honest with you: I did some serious thinking on what I wanted to do with my career. Weighed all options. I even gave some thought to retiring — I really did. I took out a notepad, and wrote down the pros and the cons of just walking away.
And I’m glad I did that….. because, sitting with those words and emotions? I learned something about myself. I learned how it would feel to retire. I learned how football being over would feel.
It felt wrong. Nah, I’d actually say it like this: It felt incomplete.
Like I got about two, three lines down in the “pros” section….. and I was like, Bruh, just stop. It ain’t worth it.
Because no matter what I wrote down there, I knew what I was about to put in the “cons”:
CAN YOU STILL WIN A RING?
DO YOU HAVE 100 SACKS?
DO YOU STILL LOVE IT?
I wasn’t ready to be done.
To tell you the truth, I think people have no idea how much I love playing, or how badly I want to win. That’s not a knock on Cincy, or those teams we had there, or the way we played. That’s all love. But the business of football is what it is…… it doesn’t always work out. So I don’t think football fans have really ever gotten to see what I’m capable of in a situation like this one. I don’t think y’all understand how hungry I’ve been for this type of moment.
This type of moment where it’s just about legacies, and passion, and playing with your heart on your sleeve.
And I know Seattle feels me — I KNOW they do.
Matter of fact, from the very first moment I got here, I felt y’all. True story: I got off the plane from Cincy, pulled up to my Seattle hotel to start the mandatory quarantine period….. and the dang valet was hyping me up. The VALET. It was serious, bro. He was like, “YOOOOOOOOO, Carlos!!!!! We’re so excited to have you here. I’ve been watching you. I know what you can do. You’re the type of player we’ve all been wanting. You’re going to love it here.”
Man….. shout-out to this valet dude, because that just hit me right. I was fired UP after that.
It told me everything I needed to know about this city.
I think people have no idea how much I love playing, or how badly I want to win.- Carlos Dunlap
I couldn’t be in the facility while I was quarantining, and those days were loooooong. I was SO ready to GO. I wanted to get right into it!! But I just had to pass the quarantine time. So one day I was like, alright — let me figure out what jersey I’m about to wear. I googled the Hawks roster and saw nobody wore number 96. Perfect, easy….. until I realized nobody was wearing it cuz that was Cortez Kennedy’s number, and it was retired. (Then I started reading up on him and turns out dude was a beast — respect.)
So then I get back on the Hawks roster, and it turns out nothing in the whole 90s is available. Tough. Alright — y’all might think this is dumb, but you know that Prime Time quote?? Where he’s like, “Look good, feel good, feel good, play good” and all that?? That’s the truth, man! You gotta look good. You gotta feel good in that number. It matters. So I went to NFL.com and just started customizing all these Seahawks jerseys, you know, putting DUNLAP II on a bunch of different versions, just to get the visual. I knew the 90s were out. Couldn’t have 8, my college number. Pete loved my creativity but shot down 00. Ultimately, I decided I would do something new. Something unique, that I could make a new “household number.” Something I could really visualize myself making some big-ass plays in, all through January and February.
I decided on 43 — which also has a secret meaning: I’m from the (8)43. So to me that means it’s for all of us! My family, my hometown, my fans and myself. 43, that’s a number right there. And I’ll tell you what: It looked right.
Felt right, too.
When I finally got to the Seahawks facility, I saw exactly what Coach Pete — and Valet Dude — had promised: a team that played with the same energy I was feeling. That same attitude. That same vibe.
One thing I’ve noticed, is how there’s this rhythm to everything we do in practice. There’s this rhythm to our prep, this consistent flow. It’s hard to explain, but it’s like nothing I’ve ever seen before — and Coach is the heartbeat of that. But then what’s crazy, and I think what’s impressed me the most, is how there’s also these other heartbeats going along with Coach’s. There’s these other big-time leaders.
Like you’ve got Russ, and Bobby, and K.J., and you know…. I’ve played against those guys a lot. I already knew what they were about on the field. But it took me all of one practice to understand how, for as much as I respected them as opponents — my levels of respect for them went up even more, now seeing them as teammates. Man it’s a rare thing, the way they’re able to get the most out of everybody. Each drill, each meeting, I’m telling you: There’s an intensity here that’s not normal.
And I say that as an 11-year vet, and in the best way.
I see how locked in those dudes are — I see how locked in someone like a D.K. is, or a Jarran is — and I’m just like, Man. MAN. This is where I belong.
There’s an intensity here that’s not normal. And I say that as an 11-year vet.- Carlos Dunlap
We haven’t had y’all fans at our home games this year — which means I haven’t gotten to make my proper introduction yet on the football field. So I guess I just wanted to write this article real quick, before these playoffs got started, to kind of say my piece. Say my hello to the 12th Man. Let everyone here know what I’m about.
And it’s funny, but after spending the last few months on this team, all I really have to say is: Me and this city….. we’re similar.
We’re both about having that will to COMPETE.
Compete to work. Compete to win.
Compete to be a part of something special.
Seattle, thanks for the warm welcome — and thank you for saving my season.
The Universe has put this out there for us….. now leggo get it.
DAMN I’m hungry.
With Honey, Let’s Eat!!!