BY Art Thiel 09:25PM 04/26/2013

Thiel: Seahawks’ Michael rebuilds legs, image

Thanks to injury, a coaching change and immaturity, Christine Michael didn’t finish what he started at Texas A&M. Pete Carroll is big on fresh starts.

Christine Michael had a tumultuous career at Texas A&M. / Wiki Commons

Drama queen, or the next Leon Washington? A little of both. For sure, Christine (please, call him KRIS-tin) Michael is the Seahawks second-round draft choice at a position, running back, the Seahawks seemed stacked, with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin.

Said Matt Barry, a Seahawks scout: “You’re only an injury away, knock on wood.”

That’s the aphorism. Here is the strategy:

“We want to run the ball. That’s our style. You can’t have enough of those guys.”

So Seahawks general manager John Schneider foiled the football form again. Instead of filling spots where the Seahawks were thin, he made a thick spot thicker with a really thick guy — 5-foot-10, 221 pounds, with a vertical leap of 43 inches.

It’s the most hops for a running back in the history of the NFL scouting combine. For those of you versatile enough to switch sports and go back long, David Thompson, the dazzling dunk artist at North Carolina State and the NBA (including the Sonics), measured 44 inches.

“He is,” said Schneider, “really put together.”

“His work ethic really stands out,” Barry said. “He’s going to be good on special teams, good out of the backfield at catching the ball and he’s going to be good running.”

After cutting Washington, the No. 3 back, the Seahawks had a vacancy, but few expected the Seahawks to expend such a high pick on it. But coach Pete Carroll pointed out the obvious.

“We led the NFL in rushing attempts last year,” he said. “We want to keep running the ball.”

Yet the Seahawks were able to trade down, from the 56th pick to the 62nd and last pick of the second round — the latest initial pick in club history — to get a dazzling athletic specimen.

How?

Because by his own admission, Michael went all pouty and selfish when a new Aggies coach transformed the offense and a new quarterback, Johnny Manziel, won the Heisman Trophy.

“We had a whole new coaching staff, a whole new offense. It got shaky for me,” Michael told the San Antonio Express-News at the February combine in Indianapolis. “I went into my own tunnel and got a little stubborn and was just in my own world  . . . It was just frustrating for me not to get as many carries and not to be that No. 1 guy in that offense.”

What did he learn?

“Let a lot of things go,” Michael said. “Sit back, and let things happen, let (crap) happen.”

After the 2011 season, the Aggies fired Mike Sherman, a former Seahawks assistant coach under Mike Holmgren, and hired Kevin Sumlin, who installed a spread offense that exploited Manziel’s talents to an 11-2 record, including a 41-13 Cotton Bowl win over Oklahoma — in which Michael didn’t play a down.

“I wanted to go out with a bang,” said Michael, who finished his career with 2,791 rushing yards and 35 touchdowns. “I was going full speed every practice. I had no clue I wasn’t going to play. It was shocking to me, and it still shocks me to this day.”

A much better shock came early Friday evening when the Seahawks seemingly made another reach with a high draft pick.

“It was (a surprise), man” he said by teleconference. “It was. Marshawn Lynch is one of my favorites.”

Michael had a Lynch-caliber profile as a five-star recruit from Beaumont, TX., who was  named the Big 12 Conference’s offensive freshman of the year. But he broke his leg in his sophomore season and tore an ACL in his junior year. Then came the coaching change, Manziel and the spread offense.

Michael was suspended for a game after he complained about the playcalling during a blowout win: “Man, run the ball,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Friday, he wisely chose diplomacy.

“The coaching change was definitely a difficult situation for me,” he said. “I lived and I learned from it. There was definitely some adversity to overcome. I grew up a lot. It was great.

The whole (Seahawks coaching) staff is like magic for those (players),” he said. “They know exactly what they’re doing. They know how to take a team from nothing and bring them to everything.”

Before the combine, he said he would “shock the world.” His measurables, including a 4.38-second 40-yard dash, walked his talk.

But he also overslept one morning at the combine, which is considered fairly bad form.

“It was terribly sick,” he said. “I had flu-like symptoms and felt bad. I took (sleep aids) and they knocked me right out.”

Whatever the situation, NFL.com analyst Mike Mayock compared Michael to last year’s star rookie running back, Alfred Morris, who ran for 1,613 yards after Washington picked him in the sixth round.

But he has two, young healthy veterans ahead of him. Barring injury calamity, he won’t get the touches Morris hand. But as Carroll demonstrated when he coached at USC, it doesn’t matter for team success if every running back is good; it merely spreads the wear.

“The hope is we add to the competition,” Carroll said. “We don’t looking at like he has to start. We’re looking for players to help our team.”

And if they ever need a point guard who can dunk, Michael’s available.

Highs

• Rushed for 230 yards, tying for third-best in A&M history, in narrow loss to Arkansas in 2011.

• Big 12 freshman of year opened 2010 season with three straight 100-yard rushing games.

• Scored two one-yard rushing TDs in A&M’s 29-24 upset of No. 1 Alabama in 2012.

Lows

• Broke right tibia in 2010 against Texas Tech and missed the rest of A&M’s 9-4 season.

• Tore left ACL in 2011 at Oklahoma and missed the remainder of A&M’s 7-6 season.

• Suspended for SMU game in 2012 for “violation of team rules” and did not travel. During A&M’s blowout win, he posted on his Twitter account, “Man, run the ball” in questioning play-calling.

 San Antonio Express-News contributed to this report.

Third round:  Jordan Hill, DT, 6-foot-1, 303 pounds, Penn State

The Seahawks went back to more conventional thinking in the third round to add defensive line depth, choosing Jordan Hill, a smaller, quicker tackle than the Seahawks have had.

“We wanted to try something a little different,” said Carroll, indicating that the growing vulnerability to the run last season was being addressed. A nagging foot injury to 340-pound DE Red Bryant diminished his effectiveness. Carroll wasn’t specific about changes, but Hill, an All-Big Ten pick and co-captain, has the ability to stay low, win one-on-one battles and push up-field.

Hill started 27 of 45 games at Penn State, mostly at end, and made 171 tackles and 9.5 sacks.

“(The Seahawks) told me they were very interested in me (at the combine),” he said by teleconference. “I’m a versatile player. I’m not only a guy who can pass-rush, I can also stop the run. I’m a guy that plays with with a high motor.”

As a team leader, Hill was surrounded by the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State, and could have chosen to go pro after his junior year.

“I was positive I was staying at Penn State,” he said. “The only way I would have left is if we weren’t able to play football.

“I’m glad I went through it. I was able to fight through all the adversity because I feel it makes me a better man. Now my goals are finally being reached, and I’m getting the opportunity to play in the NFL. It just makes it that much better.”

 


YourThoughts

  • jafabian

    Funny how Hugh Millen was saying on the radio the Seahawks wouldn’t and shouldn’t take a RB with their first pick and they did anyways. Mike Holmgren said that teams need depth and injuries can happen anytime and looks like that was the line of thinking. IMO, they took the best athlete available and really, Marshawn isn’t getting any younger. Wondering if they’ll take a QB at some point? After all, they struck gold last year.

  • Michael Kaiser

    Oh, ya, this guy is going to be a treasure. And speaking of Millen, as jafabian did, I listened to him and his posse yesterday–for all of about ten minutes, as there is only so much of the typical inane sports radio dribble one can listen to (Rudman and Thiel was different, though)–and they were hooting it up, cocky as hell, over, among other things, how they would take Harvin over any other first rounder, etc. Don’t people ever get it up here? In a city that has not won squat–ever–excepting a basketball championship moving on half-a-century ago that no one even watched–we have nothing to be hooting about. And people wonder why Hooterville never will get it. We are not going to win the Super Bowl this year. I bet we do not even make it out of the divisional round. San Francisco took the draft seriously this year. But then franchises that have the rings that the 49′s do understand what winners are and what winning takes.

    • art thiel

      Michael, sports radio is entertainment, not journalism or news reporting. Steve and I appreciate the radio kudo, but our show lasted only three years because the program director thought we were too smart for the audience.

      SF has done well in the draft and so has Seattle. Nothing has changed materially between the two best teams in the NFC. I’m not smart enough to know who wins what, but I will enjoy the hell out of it.

      • CancelledShow

        Oh, you were “too smart for the audience”? Give me a break. Show’s get cancelled because of bad ratings. Basically, you just were not interesting.

        • jason

          Thiel uninteresting? Give me a break.

  • Joe Fan

    Hugh Millen also bashed Wilson. he is a smart guy but has how biases.