RENTON — Back in the summer, long before it became a way to quietly send a message, DK Metcalf decided he wanted to learn more about a class on American Sign Language he took in college.
He saw it as a hobby to do away from the field that would teach him something new.
The Seattle Seahawks wide receiver didn’t intend on it becoming a method to express himself on the field without getting in trouble.
“I always try to exercise my mind or try to learn something new,” Metcalf said. “In the past I was taking acting classes, now I figured let’s take it a step further.”
Metcalf’s path learning ASL came to light after he scored the first of his three touchdown catches last week in Seattle’s 41-35 loss to Dallas. Following the 73-yard touchdown catch-and-run, Metcalf signed the phrase, “Standing on business,” which quickly caught the attention of everyone watching the Thursday night game.
The sign was first shown to Metcalf by teammate Boye Mafe, who learned ASL when he was younger and has picked up using it again as a way for the duo to communicate around the Seahawks facility and practice their skills.
“I’m starting to remember a lot of things. It’s like riding a bike. You start like, ‘Oh, I remember this.’ ” Mafe said. “He’s reminded me of a couple of things I almost forgot myself.”
Metcalf first got a taste of ASL when he was in college at Ole Miss and this summer decided he wanted to learn even more with the goal of becoming fluent.
His agency was able to connect Metcalf with Darrell Utley, a sign language instructor based in Knoxville, Tenn. The pair meet once a week over Zoom for about an hour each time.
Metcalf said even though he’d taken the class in college he was essentially, “starting back at square one.”
“It was like one, two, or three signs that I kind of knew but mainly starting back from square one,” he said.
Metcalf has picked up using ASL quickly despite learning in a virtual setting. Utley is deaf so the conversations they have during their video sessions are all done via ASL. They’ve had seven sessions so far with many more to come.
Metcalf has saved the recordings of the teaching sessions on his phone — which he’s happy to show others — and will go back and rewatch them during slow times of the week or spend a few minutes watching when Seattle is flying to a game.
“It’s just been very fun just to see him smiling every time we interact, or anytime I know something that he’s signs to me I can see just his smile light up,” Metcalf said. “I think it’s just great that I get to learn something new, I get to challenge myself to learn something new, and also just to bring light to a community who I didn’t know felt unseen or felt like they were being forgot about.”
As for what signs he might use in the future on the field, Metcalf said he wants to be spontaneous. While “Standing on business,” was planned, he wants anything else to be organic — and preferably after he finds the end zone.
He also hopes to meet Utley in person, soon. The Seahawks play at Tennessee on Dec. 24.
“I think it demonstrates a diverse way of communicating and looking at the world and knowing how everybody is so prone to be captured in what you express,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “It’s a new way. I think it’s very innovative, until people start studying up and wondering what the heck he’s saying.”