ESPN’s Sheil Kapadia published a really insightful piece today and I’d highly recommend checking it out.
Kapadia details the influence of author Ryan Holiday and his book ‘Ego is the Enemy’ on the Seahawks. We’ve often talked about Seattle’s penchant for players with ‘grit’.
Carroll and Schneider have become infatuated with building a culture of grit and have researched how to identify those traits during the pre-draft process.
Holiday visited Seahawks training camp in August and discussed with Schneider the idea of finding players who have overcome obstacles on their way to the NFL.
“We were talking about that in the sense that if you make it in the NFL, you’ve already been really good at football at different stages in your life,” Holiday said. “You were good in high school. You were good in college. But undoubtedly, this is going to be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. So if you fall to pieces, if that’s the first time that you’ve ever bumped into your capacities as a human being, that’s a really bad time for that to happen.
“So I think one of the reasons they probably look for adversity is the same reason … wouldn’t you rather find out what you’re made of when everything wasn’t on the line? I think that’s why they look at that.”
Increasingly we’ve tried to identify players possessing ‘gritty’ characteristics. Backstories, tales of adversity. Combine that with physical ideals and you’re generally on the right track.
We’ve talked about some of these players many times before — but I think it’s worth revisiting how they fit the ‘grit’ factor in light of Sheil’s piece…
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State)
Luani, originally from American Samoa, travelled to the U.S. alone in 2012 with no house, no scholarship and about $400 in his pocket trying to realise his dream of playing college football.
He’d previously played soccer, rugby and football for his country at international level, competing in tournaments like the IFAF U-19 World Championship. He moved to America and gambled on his own ability. As Stefanie Loh explains, “His plan was to get to the mainland, play in the U-19 tournament, and then figure out a way to stay in the U.S. and play football somewhere.”
He ended up playing for Chabot College while living in a garage in a house homing 20 players, a situation he describes as a “ghetto”. When they were evicted, a chance encounter led to an opportunity in the JUCO’s and then eventually a shot in the NCAA. Nothing has been handed to Luani. Nothing has been easy. He’s had to work for this career. That’s grit.
Luani has played safety and nickel so he has some versatility. He’s been touted as a possible ‘deathbacker’ too — earning praise from the man who virtually invented the position (Deone Bucannon). He’s a playmaker — he has eight interceptions in the last two seasons with 8.5 TFL’s in 2016 alone and two sacks.
Before the Apple Cup, Pete Carroll made reference that the Seahawks had been watching Washington State closely this year. Could they be keeping an eye on Luani?
Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
Bolles has battled adversity throughout his life — some of it self-inflicted. He had a difficult childhood before turning to drugs and crime. He was eventually arrested for vandalism, kicked out of the house by his father and taken in by another family.
He’s since completely turned his life around in a similar fashion to Bruce Irvin — going through the JUCO’s and being courted by virtually every major college in the NCAA. The story is well explained in this video.
There’s no question in my mind that Bolles is the best left tackle in college and is destined to go in round one. Is it realistic he falls to the Seahawks if he declares? Possibly not. What works in their favour is the fact he turns 25 next May so he’s not necessarily a 10-year option in the NFL. Tony Pauline ranks him as a borderline first rounder.
He’s a physical tone-setter — a terrific run blocker with the balance, loose hips and athletic profile to excel in pass-pro. He’s a bully on the field and now a family man off it, expecting his first child with his wife.
He just screams ‘Seahawks’ and he might be the most underrated player in college football.
Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
In High School, Reddick suffered a fractured femur and missed an entire season. Upon his return, he suffered a torn meniscus. With no tape to impress potential landing spots in college, he went to Temple University with the intention of becoming a regular student.
His father grew up in Camden with one of the Owls’ assistants — Francis Brown — and put in a good word for him. He was offered the chance to walk-on.
Even then it wasn’t plain sailing. He was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff from Al Golden’s crew to Matt Rhule’s led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship.
The rest is history. In 2016 he has 21.5 TFL’s in 13 games, 9.5 sacks, an interception and three forced fumbles. He needs two more TFL’s in the Bowl game against Wake Forest to set a single season school record. He helped Temple win their first Conference Championship in program history last weekend.
At his junior pro-day, Reddick reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and 235lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical. That’s special.
He’s a hybrid linebacker/DE (and actually started as a defensive back at Temple) and could fit in nicely as a SAM/LEO. He speaks like a grown man and has the personality to survive in Seattle.
D’Onta Foreman (RB, Texas)
Foreman is a twin. His brother Armanti was a highly coveted national recruit, drawing interest from schools like Alabama, Florida and LSU. D’Onta was a two-star recruit according to Rivals.
The story about the brothers landing at Texas is incredible. This piece by Chris Hummer illustrates the journey.
If you want the condensed version, D’Onta was essentially a pawn in the battle to recruit Armanti. According to Hummer’s piece, former Texas Head Coach Mack Brown sat both brothers down and told them: “You’re a good player D’Onta… Armanti, you’re a great player.”
Eventually, Texas reportedly told Armanti if he committed to them they’d offer his brother a scholarship too. Neither brother really wanted it to go down like that.
According to Hummer, D’Onta ran a sub-4.5 forty that at least partly convinced Texas they were getting a player they could work with. What I’ve written down here is only scratching the surface. Foreman’s father’s colourful language in the article to describe the Longhorns is indicative of the ill-feeling.
Neverthless, the situation has evidently served as motivation for the lesser rated brother. This year he ran for 2028 yards and scored 15 touchdowns.
“I feel like I have a lot to prove to the people who didn’t think I was going to be what I am now.”
Sounds gritty to me.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama)
Tomlinson’s father died when he was five and his mother passed away in 2011. This article by Terrin Waack highlights how important she was in his life. He writes ‘RIP MOM‘ on his wrist tape for games, stating: “She’s the reason I’m here… I want to give respect to her because she can’t be at the games like everybody else’s moms.”
He tore knee ligaments while playing soccer in High School. In 2013, as a redshirt freshman, he suffered a similar injury in his other knee. He’s been through a lot.
Nick Saban: “You’re talking about a guy that is a great example of perseverance… He always seems to make the obstacle the way to get better and improve: as fine a person and as fine a young man as you’re ever going to find.”
Tomlinson isn’t like most defensive tackles either. He has a passion for art and music, playing several instruments. Don’t doubt his physical skills though. He’s a punishing, physical tough guy with good gap control. He has great length and size (6-3, 308lbs, 33 1/4 inch arms, 10 inch hands) and he has a terrific physique with minimal bad weight. He’s a former four-star recruit with a background including track & field and wrestling. You know the Seahawks love that, not to mention the ‘grit’.