This is part of a series of personal essays we're calling Stories from Seattle, contributed by our community and designed to show how the coronavirus pandemic is impacting the lives of Seattleites. Want to share your story, coping mechanisms, wildest ideas? We’d love to hear. Please email: email@example.com.
D.J. Fluker is a starting offensive guard for the Seahawks. Like everyone else, he's staying at home; unlike everyone else, he's got to prepare for an NFL season that may not unfold in front of fans—or at all. —As told to Tricia Romano
When the season ended, me and my fiancé went to Hawaii. A month into it, I started hearing about this virus going around, but it wasn't in America yet. But then, by the second month, it was hitting the US. When I realized that, I started texting my family.
I didn't know how bad it really was because at first, it was affecting elderly people. And we have a nine-month-old right now. So that was our precaution—OK, maybe we need to go home, leave Hawaii, quarantine in our place.
My family lives in Mobile, Alabama. One of my friends, he plays basketball. So we've been talking back and forth about it. He said people in the area they've been getting it, too. It may not be a lot of cases, but they have it, too. In New Orleans, I went to a high school called McDonogh 35 and my coach, Coach Reese, he passed away a couple weeks ago from the virus. This is actually real, people are taking it as a joke but it is really killing people, especially with weak immune systems.
Our athletic trainer at the Seahawks, he contacted everyone through email telling them to stay indoors and trying to keep everybody safe, because if God forbid something happens to one of us, that's what we don't want. Our coaches did a good job calling us, checking in on us. That shows how much our team cares about us.
So right now, no one's doing anything at the moment because of the virus. And we want to, but we don't want to get other guys sick. So we're gonna try next week to Zoom. Usually, we're together in our meetings, in a classroom, going over plays, learning from the basics, on up. We're really trying to build back our team bond. But we don't know how this video comm is gonna go. That's kind of new for us. As long as everyone buys in what we have to do to be a great team this year, hopefully, we have a season this year—which I know we will— 'cause I gotta go! I miss it.
My teammates on the offensive line, we have our own group chat. So we all talk. So we reached out to some players on defense, too. I got a lot of guys trying to get us to do these dances, you know Drake? "Toosie Slide." Me and my fiance we did it, we put it on Instagram. So we're challenging our other teammates to do it, but so far we haven't had anybody get us back yet. It was just something to do. And some people have done it we just haven't posted yet. An offense versus defense dance-off would be fire. Our receivers, they do it by themselves over there.
It's draft week, but I don't really watch the draft like that. I'll catch a couple of highlights. I know my agent has a few guys that he has going to the draft. I hope they all get drafted. The online draft is not going to be too much different, honestly. Because if you go to back in the day, they used to get drafted from home, and people would be watching on TV. As long as the kids get the opportunity to decide when it's all over and get their accolades.
I'm training every day, seven days a week right now, working out about three hours a day. I'm getting ready for the season because we don't really know when it's gonna happen. But you gotta stay in shape. You can't be out of shape coming in, because we may have to go right into our season, and that's what you got to think about. So just really be prepared, just be in tune. At the end of the day, this is our job. This is what we get paid to do. You get paid to be in shape, you get paid to show up and perform. I think that's what it comes down to—how bad you want something. And if you're motivated all the time, you don't have to get ready for the season that may happen or doesn't happen.
I got just about everything at my home gym. I'm lifting weights. I don't have a treadmill yet, I'm working on that. Plus I've got a trainer who does workouts. It's more virtual and emails right now. And sometimes I may go there, if I go there, it's just me. I can't be around people. I'm usually training with other guys besides myself, you get that motivation, 'cause usually, you got guys next to you, they are pushing you during the drills, pushing you in the weight room. So that's different.
If we play without a crowd? To me, I look at it like practice. It's just us and the coaches all the time, right? So it wouldn't really be too much of a difference. We are used to having the crowd noise. But it also has an advantage though. We'll get to use our snap count on offense.
We have one of the best fan bases. Twelves, they go crazy out here. It's awesome to have that chemistry from our fans. Yeah, I will admit, though, it's gonna be a little bit difficult. I'm used to seeing all the kids there. The parents, they wanna take pictures. It's gonna be a little bit tough. Fans are always in our corner, especially on the road. I'm thinking, how we could do Zoom. That would be dope.
At home, I get up around six or seven in the morning. I call my family and check on them and see how they are doing. I hang with my little girl for a little while and until her mom wakes up then you know we start our day and we kind of figure out what our game plan is. And then I go work out for three, four hours. And then come home and we watch a movie. For my fiancé, she's into painting, art, so she'll be doing that. And my hobbies, I'm been gaming a little bit. Usually, we like to take turns with the baby so we can do different stuff. We just try to keep everyone happy, so we don't go insane being quarantined. That's the whole goal, not to go crazy.
Right on my street, I have a meat shop. Some of the stores are still open. I'm on a diet plan. So I really like steak, shrimp, chicken breast, a lot of broccoli. But if I had my choice? On the weekend? Pasta, spaghetti and meatballs, with some mushrooms.
Being indoors is a lot different. I think not being able to go out go and interact, that's a whole lot different for me and my family. Being at home, it's not so bad. I'm thinking how blessed I am to be where I'm at right now and not be sick. You're blessed to be at home and be able to train and work out your own facility.
For me, it's all about the people. It's all about our fans. Not only our fans but the people in America, too. We'd rather have them safe and because those people, those fans, those are our family members. We gotta look at it that way, too. We want to have everyone safe, or everyone gets sick. That's what it's about. We don't want the numbers to go high and people are dying every day from it. That's what's important. What do we want to do as an organization? As players? You have to look at it that way. We know people love us and we get it, you know, but having the fans safe in their home watching the game is way safer than them being together and it causing another outbreak and everything goes back crazy. That how I look at it—at the bigger picture.
When this is over, the first place I'm going? Oh, I'm going to the facility, I can't wait. I know I'm used to being around the guys you know, they are like my brothers. I'm used to being around them, I'm looking forward to it. I hope it clears up soon, so make sure everyone's safe before it does. But yeah, I look forward to getting back to football.
The thing I've learned being in a lockdown mode—don't take life for granted. Don't take the things you do every day for granted. How you live every day, you should cherish it, especially seeing what's going on going on. You could be gone in an instant. You always want to leave a great impression on anybody that you meet, no matter who it is. That's what I'm taking from this. You could be gone tomorrow.