BY Art Thiel 08:19PM 08/31/2014

Thiel: Seahawks newcomers rejoice in choice

Two undrafted free agents, MLB Brock Coyle and OT Garry Gilliam, join the Seahawks, making the rest of the NFL ask: What did we miss?

Garry Gilliam was one of two undrafted free agents to make this year’s Seahawks. / Seahawks.com

More than a game, the nothing day Saturday on the Seahawks players schedule was excruciating. The guys on the roster bubble were at the VMAC in the quiet. No one wanted to be summoned by the coaches. Phones were alive with inquiry from friends and family.

“Your family is calling all the time,” said OT Garry Gilliam. “My mom kept calling, and I’d tell her, ‘If I’m not telling you anything,  that’s a good thing.’”

As players disappeared one by one, the quiet continued. Then came a mandatory team meeting at 2 p.m. He had been told nothing of his fate, until he entered.

“If you’re in this room,” Gilliam recalled hearing, “you’re on the team.”

Joy for the few, dread for the rest.

Gilliam was in the room with MLB Brock Coyle, instantly becoming the objects of local and national curiosity. They were the undrafted free agents, UDFAs in football argot, who made the roster of the defending Super Bowl champions. Like WRs Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, they are unpedigreed survivors of a ruthless system.

Because of the Seahawks’ reputation for pulling king salmon out of back eddies, teams and pro football watchers examine carefully the Seahawks’ personnel decisions. Who is kept and who is released? Why? What did we miss?

A good example Sunday was the decision by the Dallas Cowboys to add a linebacker cut by the Seahawks, Korey Toomer of Idaho, immediately to the 53-man roster rather than the practice squad. The move was considered unusual, but speaks to the value of Seattle’s discards.

The Seahawks liked Toomer, a fifth-round pick in 2012, sufficiently to keep him around through two seasons of injuries. But another injury limited him in August, and he ran out of chances here. The Cowboys thought enough of him to cut someone who already made their 53-man roster.

Same thing happened to two other Seahawks who were cut: DE Benson Mayowa was picked up by Oakland, and OL Caylin Hauptmann by Cleveland.

In the case of the 6-foot-6, 306-pound Gilliam, he went undetected largely because of a position switch, perhaps categorized as the Sweezy Flip, named for J.R. Sweezy, who spent his college football life as a defensive lineman before becoming the Seahawks starting right guard.

Gilliam was a tight end throughout his high school career in Hershey, PA., and most of his time at Penn State. After missing the 2011 season recovering from a torn ACL, he came back in 2012 to make seven catches. In 2013, he switched to right tackle.

Since he declared late for the draft, he missed the annual scouting combine in Indianapolis. But at Penn State’s pro day, someone among the Seahawks staff spotted some quickness and athleticism that came with the size.

After he went undrafted, the Seahawks were on the phone.

“Seattle pursued the hardest, but there were a lot of other teams interested,” said Gilliam, who also had an inside source in Seattle — defensive lineman Jordan Hill, a former teammate at Penn State. Gilliam could read a lot about the Seahawks, but there’s nothing like a personal referral.

Asked why he chose Seattle, he said, “The main thing was the coaching staff. They seem to get the most out of their players. They’re great teachers.”

Asked why he thought he survived to join veterans Russell Okung and Alvin Bailey and fellow rookie Justin Britt — the only first-year player player who will start against Green Bay Thursday — at tackle, he said, “I think they liked the way I picked up the playbook, and I guess my willingness to work on my technique every day –  being coachable. Telling me something and me making it happen.”

As for Coyle, the University of Montana grad who made a higher-profile splash in preseason games filling in for injured Bobby Wagner, he seemed an early lock to make the team but assumed nothing was in hand.

“Awesome . . . it’s awesome,” he said, using the most abused word in English in a legitimate manner, “to be part of the NFL and a part of this team.”

He got word ahead of the meeting, thanks to his agent, “then I called my mom and dad. But . . . just because you make it doesn’t make you comfortable — that’s your ticket out the door.

“I’m undrafted, so I’m working as hard as ever.”

But being an undrafted Seahawk carries a certain prestige, going all the way back to QB Dave Krieg (19-year NFL career), NT Joe Nash (15 years), SS Eugene Robinson and FB Mack Strong, and now Baldwin and Kearse.

UDFAs take nothing for granted, and know even less about entitlement.

Eight on practice squad

The Seahawks picked eight players who were in camp, cut Saturday and cleared waivers Sunday to rejoin the team on the practice squad:

TE RaShaun Allen; RB Demitrius Bronson; QB B.J. Daniels; T Nate Isles; WR Chris Matthews; S Terrance Parks; DT Jimmy Staten; S Steven Terrell.

The short time until Thursday’s game meant the Seahawks’ choices were the most expedient; things may change. The practice squad has a maximum of 10.

 


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YourThoughts

  • domdog

    Nice article Art. Thanks.

  • jafabian

    There’s a long and distinguished list of undrafted Hawks. Rufus Porter is one of my faves. Jim Zorn also wasn’t drafted but he was signed and then cut by the Cowboys, then claimed off waivers by the Hawks.

  • Jamo57

    “Because of the Seahawks’ reputation for pulling king salmon out of back eddies…..” Thanks for the chuckle with my morning coffee, Art. LOL