Not only did George Fant beat colossal odds to become a starting left tackle in his rookie season, he might actually be a good left tackle in his second season with the Seahawks.
Not sure yet what is the most remarkable thing in the young career of George Fant, The Power Forward Who Plays Left Tackle in the NFL After 7-8 Snaps in College (big title, big man, big upside). For now, I’m going with the fact that when he played hoops at Western Kentucky, he weighed 250. Now he weighs 320, and he can still dunk.
“Sure,” he said.
None in the media scrum at Seahawks headquarters Tuesday had the organs to call him out. He might suggest we get on the court and take a charge from him. Talk about a media collapse.
You may recall that Fant, another of the many undrafted free agents that populate the Seattle roster, was forced to drink a waterfall last year — starting at left tackle in his rookie season after virtually no football experience in college. A biblical camel had more fun passing through the eye of a needle.
Nevertheless, he survived, despite those bad-dream moments where his legs were trudging through thick fog.
“It feels completely different,” he said after a padless OTA workout on a 75-degree day by the lake. “I was actually laughing about it earlier today, about how I can actually understand what’s going on around me and be able to make a play. Make a call to let (C Justin Britt) know something’s coming or let (QB Russell Wilson) know something’s coming.
“It’s just so much better to know what you’re doing.”
What a thing. Such an epiphany should happen to us all.
Then again, after two clipping penalties and a false start in his week 8 debut as a starter against New Orleans, the opportunity for improvement was immense to the point of infinity.
His misplays weren’t his fault; he had no business being in that position. That was on GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, who skimped on investing in the O-line. They thought Fant, a stupendous athlete, wouldn’t play much for two years until he learned the game.
But when the lightly regarded free agent signee LT Bradley Sowell was injured in the 6-6 tie with Arizona, Fant was the next man up. Ready or not.
But Fant. 24, adapted fast enough that he was a starter in the win at New England, a remarkable high point last season that was mostly lost in the lamentations over another season short of a return to the Super Bowl.
“It was just so much,” he said. “There were things where, like, something happened to me, and I just tried not to let the same thing happen to me again. But some stuff you can’t control. You can only do what you know.
“(But) the cool thing about this, is this is all I know. What I was taught here. I don’t know a different way but the way they taught me. Now I’m just adding little tools to that toolkit.”
An early learning was that for the first time in his athletic life, he wasn’t big enough to do the job.
“I mean, I can’t be at 290 getting bull-rushed,” he said. “I knew I needed some weight for sure. That was early. I knew it and I knew there were things I wanted to work on in the offseason. I couldn’t just throw a lot of weight on in the season; that’s an injury waiting to happen. I knew this off-season was going to be big.”
But not too big. Without any real football yet, it’s too early to tell how 320 pounds is going to work for him, but the outlook in June is positive.
“I’m still moving good, like I was before,” he said. “I put in a lot of work to make sure I still had the feet, but also had the strength.”
Besides hitting the weight room, he made a double move, on the caloric and familial level. After Fant and his wife, former Western Kentucky women’s basketball player Chastity Gooch, had a second child in March, he invited his mother to move from the family home in Bowling Green, KY, to his place in Seattle.
“So she’s got that good southern food for me,” he said. “I was watching my portions of food before, but now I’m just kind of eating.”
Asked about his the calorie volume, he said, “There’s no telling. No telling. I will say that.”
Regarding matters of football technique, he found himself a mentor. Walter Jones, the Seahawks Hall of Fame tackle, was ready and willing.
“He’s around every now and then,” he said, “and one day I was just like, ‘Hey, let me talk to you, because I know you’re watching. I know you’re watching the left tackle position, because I know when I turn the TV on to watch a game, that’s the first thing I’m looking at.’
“I asked him what he thought, what he’d seen, and he told me. I respected it. I thought he was right, and from there we moved on.”
After the season, the criticism of the NFL’s lowest-paid line was vast and frequent, prompting much speculation about a finding more experienced left tackle. The Seahawks indeed hired a free agent tackle, Luke Joeckel, to a $7 million, one-year deal. But the Seahawks thought his most recent games at guard for Jacksonville, before a knee injury, suggested a move inside.
Presuming a return to full health, Joeckel figures to open at left guard. Fant, to the surprise of the known football world, is penciled in at starting left tackle. Fant sounds like a little kid about it.
“It’s just like you have a new toy you want to try,” he said. “I’ve got some things I want to do. It’s not just one set I know, it’s actually different sets, different run angles, how to target, things like that. It just makes you want to go out there and really apply it and see all the work you’ve done pay off.”
If Schneider and Carroll have hit on this guy for left tackle, even they will able to dunk.