Meet HawkMan, a Microsoft engineer who used his leave from work to craft ultimate football alter ego
Brad Sarsfield wouldn’t be the first mild-mannered tech worker to transform into a bit of a screaming lunatic when mixing with the “12s” and cheering for the Seattle Seahawks. Football and fandom does weird things to ordinary people.
But the longtime Microsoft software engineer is a somewhat unique bird among Hawks fans. He’s one of those people who needs more than a team jersey or a foam finger to express enthusiasm and allegiance on game day.
Sarsfield, a 44-year-old father of four from Gig Harbor, Wash., returned to work on Monday after a 12-week parental leave from Microsoft. He left early to attend the Seahawk’s season opener against the Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson on “Monday Night Football.”
Between work and Lumen Field, he became HawkMan.
“To keep myself busy, to get off the computer, to do something physically creative, I started to build this costume,” Sarsfield said of the project he took on over the summer.
Already parents to kids ages 7, 9 and 11, Sarsfield and his wife are fostering a 1-year-old boy, which made Sarsfield eligible for Microsoft’s parental leave benefit. After more than 20 years at the tech giant, he began his time off in June after his kids got out of school.
“I put the kids to bed and I’d spend three or four hours every night,” he said of his costume construction. “Part of it was decompression therapy. I love figuring out how to do new and weird things, and it was a chance to learn a skill that wasn’t on the keyboard.”
Sarsfield said he normally lives at the intersection of data and mixed reality working on the next iteration and generation of computing. He’s worked on Microsoft HoloLens, mixed reality and robotics.
“You kind of get to invent the future,” he said of his work. “That’s the thing about tech. It necessitates a level of creativity. When you fix and work on virtual things all day long, it’s nice to have something that you can feel and touch and see.”
A longtime Seahawks fan, Sarsfield was on the team’s Blue Pride waitlist for 10 years and just got season tickets with a friend in the south end zone at Lumen Field. The seats on the field are where a number of more energetic and well-outfitted fans sit.
“There’s a ton of superfans around there,” he said. “Mr. and Mrs. Seahawk sit over my left side. They’re awesome. And the guy who sits beside me is Captain Seahawk. … It’s cool. They’ve got the TV cameras in your face.”
HawkMan is a mashup of Seahawks pride and superhero influence, and it’s Sarsfield’s first foray into cosplay. He got the idea from an illustration he saw on Reddit by a user named William Sabato, who draws other NFL team caricatures.
Some details of the get-up include:
- A modified Wonder Woman Golden Eagle helmet made out of EVA craft foam, like those sold on Etsy. He learned how to paint and seal it on YouTube.
- A Batman cosplay chest plate, also made of foam, and modified with a Seahawks front-facing logo.
- Batman Dark Knight forearm guards painted Seahawks blue and green.
- Feather detailing on his right shoulder pad and Lumen Field’s roofline on his left.
- Knockoffs of the Nike MAG sneakers from “Back to the Future,” also painted to Seahawks specs.
Sarsfield said the hardest item to track down was a pair of uniform pants like the players wear. He ended up buying actual pants worn by ex-Seahawks linebacker KJ Wright off the team’s charity auction site.
“It was fun to show up in this thing,” Sarsfield said of Monday’s much-hyped game, in which more than 68,000 fans filled the stadium. “Kids wanted pictures … tons of high fives.”
His location in the stands and the reputation of the 12s making for good, loud TV made Sarsfield an easy lock for showing up on the ESPN broadcast and again in a Seahawks social media hype video after the win.
Sarsfield called it a “top five” Seahawks experience and one of the loudest games he’s ever attended. His ears were ringing and the next day on Microsoft Teams his voice was shot. But no one recognized him as HawkMan.
“No one at work knows,” he laughed. “I haven’t even posted it on my Facebook yet. It’s sort of like my secret identity.”
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