The picture of a bare-chested John Schneider wearing a WWE championship belt in a jubilant-looking locker room is a favorite of Seahawks Twitter and an era-defining cult classic. But how did this photo come to be?
This offseason, we finally heard how exactly how Schneider transformed into a viral wrestling sensation—from Seattle’s general manager himself.
“So we went to get our picture taken, you know the day before the draft, or the day before the Super Bowl in New York,” Schneider told Thomas Dimitroff’s “The GM podcast” prior to the 2021 NFL season.
Dimitroff, who served as general manager of the Falcons from 2008 to 2020, has been friends with Schneider since the early ‘90s.
“And, like everybody was totally loose all week. We had a great week of practice,” Schneider continued. That loose atmosphere and great practicing matches player accounts of the lead-up to Super Bowl 48.
“And EK, Eric Kennedy our equipment guy, you know received the belt, you know, from the, you know the big WWE belt and all that,” Schneider said. "And we were all dressing to go get our picture taken. And EK’s like, 'Yeah, the guys are, you know you need to like, do your Chris Farley like for everybody or something man, because the guys are like, super tight today.’’ And DQ’s [Dan Quinn, defensive coordinator] like ‘Yeah, I don’t know what’s going on man. The guys are pretty wound up before the game.’”
That change in team feel pre-Super Bowl 48 is new information, although it makes sense with what would later emerge from behind the scenes.
“And so they were dressing,” Schneider went on. “And so I had my Seahawk polo and my khakis on, and was like going to go in there with the belt. And DQ’s like: ‘you gotta take your shirt off.’ I’m like: ‘good point!’”
“It’s one of the worst decisions I’ve ever made man,” Schneider admitted. “I mean I went in there, everybody started laughing, we started having a great time and everything. But then like the players started pulling out their phones. And I’m like 'oh my gosh, my mom’s gonna see this, it’s so embarrassing.'”
“It was the day before the Super Bowl. It wasn’t after the Super Bowl,” Schneider had previously outlined at the 2014 NFL combine. “I was just trying to lighten the mood a little bit. Things got out of hand. They all have to take pictures now. It was a moment of weakness, and I would not – well, I would do it again, but there would be guidelines for everybody.”
We saw Schneider’s WWE greatness in the aftermath of the Seahawks 43-8 Super Bowl victory, with Earl Thomas posting on Instagram a pose with belt-clad Schneider. The free safety hurriedly deleted the post—though not before it had been snagged by the ever-attentive, here-forever internet.
A picture of Schneider with running back Christine Michael alongside him also emerged.
“The pictures were out, yeah that was great,” laughed Schneider. “The pictures were out of my belly and everything. It was really great, you know Traci [Schneider] didn’t divorce me, it was great.”
Not only did Schneider's belly and belt cause a media fracas and lead to a clarification from NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero. It also left him scrambling to contact then-Broncos general manager John Elway.
“You know, I ended up calling John Elway after the game and was like: ‘that was not after the game dude, that was yesterday and I was trying to like, you know, lift the guys’ spirits and all this kinda stuff,” Schneider described. The picture does look a lot like the start of the championship party.
Not only was Seattle’s GM left sheepish; the tense mood among the players only partially dissipated. “It was really embarrassing and then like, two minutes after that we had like a fight on our team that never got out,” Schneider explained.
That was the GM referring to wide receiver Percy Harvin punching wide receiver Golden Tate in the eye, giving his teammate a shiner that was visible in the official pre-Super Bowl team photos, the snaps Schneider was slow dressing for given his belt antics.
Nevertheless, over eight years after the fact, what truly remains is the Seahawks’ curb-stomping of the Denver Broncos—and *that* Schneider picture. Embarrassing? More like magnificent.
The general manager has also learned over this timeframe. Dimitroff prompted Schneider into the belt subject, yet it started with Schneider’s response to this question: “What belief, approach, philosophy, have you adopted over the last 3 to 5 years that has changed or adjusted your life?”
“I would say professionally, you know right when we got here, I’d try to be more communicative, more of a direct communicator with the players,” answered Schneider.
“Just from a personality standpoint some guys took advantage of that and I started feeling that. So I’ve kind of backed off that a little bit. Like there is a little bit of a difference, you know?”
“My point with that was, I have to really concentrate on not taking things personally,” Schneider concluded after sharing the belt story.
“With the players, with negotiation, with you know like a conflict, something with conflict, or a decision I have to make. Where like, you know you’re like, ‘hey, man, this is a pretty good place, like you’ve got it pretty good here in the northwest. Like this is a great organization. Like, you know what’s your deal?’”
The general manager has learned from those around him along with past experiences to shift his approach.
“So I’d kinda take that personally. And, to some of our senior management kinda people that have been in the building, you know they were kinda like: ‘you know, we have noticed you know you kinda took that a little, can take things a little too personally.’ But that’s part of that opening up too, right? Like I open up to you, I’m giving you part of me, and then you expect the same back. And you’re not always gonna get that.”
Listen to the full episode here.