BY Art Thiel 06:07PM 05/18/2014

Kiero Small next up for Seahawks’ magnificent 7s

At 5-foot-8 and 247 pounds, Kiero Small is a fullback straight out of Ripley’s Believe It or Not. At Arkansas, he broke 26 face masks of those foolish enough to go low with him.

Kiero Small could be large on special teams. / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

Seventh-round draft choices in the Pete Carroll regime are a bit like art-house films — obscure and even bewildering to many. But every once in a while, something clicks into a great commercial success.

Offensive linemen J.R. Sweezy and Michael Bowie were previous seventh-rounders who became Seahawks starters, and LB Malcolm Smith was a Super Bowl MVP. Now comes Kiero Small, who at 5-foot-8 and 247 pounds is the most bewildering yet, seemingly a better fit for Fellini than fullback.

Naturally, Carroll begs to differ.

 “He’s a fullback — he’s a legit fullback,” he said after the Seahawks’ three-day mini-camp for rookies concluded Sunday. “He loves the position, and he has a sense for it and a little chip on his shoulder about it.

“I’m hoping that he would be a real factor in special teams as well. He’s a tough guy and he can catch the ball really well too. The position is not anything that he can’t handle; he really is well-equipped for it.”

Again, the Seahawks go counter to NFL convention — even drafting for the fullback position is odd, since it has become the rotary-dial phone of pro football. Then they pick a guy built like one of those tarmac jitneys that pull airline-baggage carts.

Small is about as subtle, too. The most compelling factoid of his three-year tenure at the University of Arkansas is that he broke 26 face masks of those who dared to get low enough to attempt to out-root a low-slung Razorback.

“It was just running there,” he said, smiling, “and putting my face on people and playing a physical brand of ball.”

That’s the kind of esotoric marker that appeals to the Seahawks’ John Schneider, who is probably the only GM in the NFL who consults Ripley’s Believe it or Not before looking at standard draft data.

“He’s a total thumper, man,” he said after the draft a week ago. “I like him a lot.  He’s super tough, plays really low, digs guys out.  He’s seriously tough.

“It’s fairly natural for him because he’s so low to the ground . . .  I can say that, it’s OK.”

Chuckles ensued, because Schneider is slightly shorter than Small. But he doesn’t have to tackle him. He just has to pay him.

Schneider said Small reminds him of Rock Cartwright, a 5-7, 223-pounder out of Kansas State, a seventh-round draftee of the Washington Redskins in 2002 who managed a 10-year NFL career out of being meaner than a five-gallon bucket of cat poop.

Small is used to denigrations over his size, which means he’ll fit right in with many of the odd-sized one-offs Schneider and Carroll enjoy collecting like misprinted stamps.

“A lot of guys said when I was at home that I wouldn’t get into school,” Small said. “People said I wouldn’t get to a Division One university. So they can say what they want, but I figure if I work hard and get a shot, it’s on me after that.”

He now has his shot at pro ball. With the champs. He can hardly believe it.

“It means everything,” he said. “When I got drafted, it was a dream that I had since I was a kid. Then to come to a team that I really rooted for through the whole playoffs . . . I just love the way the Seahawks play football. It’s a physical brand of ball.”

He grew up in Baltimore, attending a Catholic prep school built on the grounds of the St. Mary’s reform school that housed the young Babe Ruth. Small’s father sent him off to military prep school in Pennsylvania, but after a semester of answering 4 a.m. reveille calls, he came back home.

For a year, he worked the family’s shop, making and selling T-shirts.

“I was selling T-shirts every day, waking up catching the bus to work,” he said. “I pretty much thought football was over for me. One day, I just woke up and said this isn’t where I want my life to go.”

He called multiple junior colleges in California before getting a yes from Hartnell JC in Salinas — as long as he could pay for his own plane ticket and rent. He live with six other guys in a two-bedroom apartment.

He was named a JC All-America after two years of playing fullback and linebacker.

That worked him into a scholarship offer from Arkansas in the SEC, where in 2013 he played in all 12 games, starting the final eight.  Of his 60 touches, none were for negative yardage. He had 151 yards and three touchdowns on 40 rushes, 128 yards and one touchdown on 19 catches and one 11-yard kickoff return. He also was the lead blocker in a run-heavy offense that featured a freshman who ran for more than 1,000 yards.

If he has an immediate future with the Seahawks, it’s as a special-teamer, where his locomotion may create new meaning for the term wedge-buster. One thing in his favor is that he’s learned, in just three days, a pivotal secret in NFL survival.

“I think what I learned is that it’s a lot about the details,” he said.  “With this brand of ball, everybody is fast, everybody is strong, everybody was pretty much the man where they came from. So you have to be real detailed in your work.

“That’s something that I’m really trying to get better at.”

Otherwise, there’s a bus pass and a map to the T-shirt shop waiting for him back home.

 


YourThoughts

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    This guy is a human wrecking ball and if he could make significant contributions on special teams I think he has an excellent chance of being on the opening day roster. A writer from Field Gulls was lamenting he didnt factor into special teams at Arkansas but this guy is a baller and highly coachable. I would think if he could play special teams like Carroll wants him to he just might put the fear of god into any returner trying to slip past his face mask mangling ability. You really have to hand it to the Seahawks this draft…world champs with limited draft picks to work with and yet they have a few legitimate guys that will make this team. Good Job , Hawks.

    • art thiel

      His story is a good one, as is the case with many of the overlooked who populate the Seahawks roster. Until teams put on pads and make contact, it will be hard to know if his power translates on the pro field.

  • notaboomer

    how does this fit in with the nfl’s new head injury protocol?

    This guy is a human wrecking ball

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7ZnVUOnweXs

    • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

      Lol good point,,, I was merely adding to Arts thoughts on Small being a part of the wedge on special teams… its a violent game. They all know what they are buying into but i am sure coaches will stress the legal way to flatten them like Cam Chancellor does.

  • Cody

    Art, I don’t like the snark about working the T-shirt shop at the end. Is that really his only option? Is that what we want to tell young people? “You better make it in sports or you will end up doing some crappy job you already decided you hated.” Art you are my favorite sports writer and your wit is awesome but you are better than that.

    • Steve Graham

      Good observation, Cody.

      So much of American society is so carelessly casual about tossing around demeaning terms like “trailer trash,” “flipping burgers,” etc. It never seems to dawn on these otherwise intelligent people that a huge part of our makeup — not all, of course — is determined by accident of birth. The message that NONE of us get to where we are without much help on our journeys somehow eludes them.

      • art thiel

        I agree with your sentiments, Cody, but I didn’t think my tag line spoke to denigration as much as Small’s aspiration. I can understand how you might have taken it a different way. Thanks.

    • art thiel

      I wouldn’t have written it if Small hadn’t specifically dismissed the option for himself. I do understand your point, having worked some of those jobs back in the day. But I knew, as do many who work them, that the entry jobs are means to an end. Small’s story is about choosing the difficult task of making a living in pro sports, but it applies to any person in any field who aspires to higher.

  • RadioGuy

    When I read shortly after the draft that Small had broken 26 facemasks while playing at Arkansas, I thought, “This guy’ll fit right in.” Being big as a fullback only helps if you can stay on your feet while blocking…Small’s size won’t work against him because it comes with a low center of gravity and I get the feeling he’s not someone who gets knocked over often.

    I miss the days when fullbacks were a real part of the offense because we were all spoiled by John L. Williams in the 80′s, but those days are gone. Now, all the fullback is required to do is block and maybe catch the odd dump-off pass, in that order. Within those parameters, Small has a great shot at making it. You know he’ll get a fair chance in Seattle.

    • art thiel

      The days of guys like John L. are gone, but the Seahawks under Carroll have found FB a useful position because they use it as a weapon just often enough to make the defense account for it.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Back in 1987 I remember watching a Hawk game at Soldier field …Walter Payton and Curt Warner each rushed for about 75 hard fought yards(each had 17 carries) but it was JOHN L that was the X factor in that game…helping the team win 34~21 by catching 8 passes for 117 yards (making them pay out of the backfield with timely 1st down catches time and time again). Man I miss that guy. We could only hope the Hawks could feature such a workhorse full back to that magnitude. Williams upstaged Payton in the prime of his career that cold December day back in Chicago. Utilizing the fullback that way allowed us to beat a Bears team that was elite that year.Think they ended the year 12~4. It would be awesome to see a fullback catching passes out of the backfield like they enjoyed John L that year.

  • jafabian

    Sounds like he’s being groomed to be the eventual starter. I’m wondering if the Real Rob Report will be offered a one year deal if that’s the case since he isn’t signed right now.

    • art thiel

      Robinson knows his career is likely over because of age and veteran expense. Seahawks already have two FBs in waiting, Coleman and Ware, so ST is Small’s way this year onto the roster.

  • Panther1

    Hey Art, Kiero graduated in December with a degree from the University of Arkansas! Insulting statement at the end of a good article. It is merely a motivational story showing how somebody worked their way to the top. He chose education!

  • http://www.dangayle.com/ Dan Gayle

    Great article, but the broken facemasks stat isn’t referring to his opponent’s, it was referring to his own. He even mentioned that the season he was hurt his equipment manager saved money because he was out.

  • 1coolguy

    4.89 (40) – so he’s terribly slow, but the Hawks need a blocker to take Robinson’s place and it looks like this guy may fill those shoes.
    Lynch needs a blocker and this guy can also catch.