SEATTLE (AP) — Before they landed in Seattle’s camp, Benson Mayowa and John Lotulelei knew nothing of the Seahawks’ recent history of giving undrafted rookies a spot on the final 53-man roster.
All they understood was the difficulty of coming into a camp where there were very few position competitions and with a team facing high expectations.
“I had no knowledge of how hard it is to make a team as an undrafted free agent,” Lotulelei said. “How I put it (was), wherever I go I’m going to give them my best and if they don’t want me, then I know I have other chances with other teams.”
If Mayowa and Lotulelei continue to play the way they did in the Seahawks’ preseason opener, their chance may come in Seattle.
While much of the focus when the Denver Broncos face the Seahawks on Saturday night will be on quarterbacks Peyton Manning and Russell Wilson and on two teams with Super Bowl aspirations meeting in a meaningless game, there are plenty of subplots.
One that has emerged in the three weeks of Seahawks camp is another possible influx of undrafted free agents making a splash.
While Seattle’s current roster is littered with undrafted free agents who finished their college careers last season, there are a handful that stood out in the preseason opener last week against San Diego, including Mayowa, Lotulelei and offensive lineman Alvin Bailey. They need only look at Seattle’s track record if they want to gauge their chances of sticking around.
In each of coach Pete Carroll’s first three seasons, at least one undrafted free agent has impressed enough during training camp to land on the active roster at some point during that season. They may have started on the practice squad but earned their way onto the roster.
The most notable was wide receiver Doug Baldwin, who went from being undrafted to becoming the Seahawks’ leading receiver in 2011 — the first undrafted rookie to lead his team in receptions and yards receiving since 1960.
Offensive lineman Lemuel Jeanpierre, linebacker Mike Morgan, safety Jeron Johnson and wide receiver Jermaine Kearse were other undrafted players who went on to contribute in their rookie seasons with the Seahawks.
The undrafted success stories have added to the legacy of a team that’s filled with late-round picks who have made big contributions and play with the intent of proving others wrong.
“Guys take that chip and they play hard on the field, they play hard to counter that vision people have of them, that lack of respect, and I think that’s why we have a team full of guys that play like that,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “A team full of guys that are angry.”
Mayowa has one of the most unique stories in Seattle’s camp. He played at Idaho, but was far from a standout. In 45 career games, Mayowa had just 68 tackles and nine sacks, not numbers that would catch the attention of many scouts. He was so far off the radar that his route to the NFL went through a regional combine last March at the Seahawks practice facility.
That’s where he was noticed by Seahawks scouts. He was invited to Seattle’s rookie camp in May and has done nothing but impress coaches since, including notching 1 ½ sacks against San Diego. At one point this week, Mayowa was the only healthy rush defensive end for the Seahawks, giving him a chance to work with the starting defense and get one-on-one time with defensive coordinator Dan Quinn.
“I think about it getting me better, putting me in position to get a position on the team,” Mayowa said. “Him working with me personally, there are other (defensive ends) that are hurt so that one-on-one time is important because he can see that I’m learning and getting what he’s teaching.”
While Mayowa’s production in college was limited, Lotulelei was among the most productive linebackers in the collegiate ranks. He had 120 total tackles his senior season at UNLV and was given a large signing bonus for an undrafted rookie to come to Seattle.
With long hair that he hasn’t cut since junior college trailing behind him, Lotulelei has raced around the Seahawks practice fields doing his best to earn a roster spot.
“I came in with the mentality of working hard and not losing opportunity to make plays,” Lotulelei said. “… I had somewhat of a knowledge of (Seattle) being a hard team to make but it didn’t matter to me.”
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