RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Kiero Small was about as far away from his NFL dream as possible.
After high school, Small found himself out of football. He went to work in a T-shirt shop, “The T-Spot,” in his hometown of Baltimore. His chances of ever putting on a Division I college uniform, let alone an NFL jersey, appeared to be a fairy tale.
“I pretty much thought football was over for me,” Small said.
But the pull of the football field continued to tug at him and he tired of selling T-shirts every day. Small decided to give football one last chance.
“One day I just woke up and said this isn’t where I want my life to go,” Small said. “Got back in school and I thank God that I got back to play football.”
Small traveled cross-country to play football for two seasons at Hartnell Community College in Salinas, California. Despite earning All-America honors as a linebacker from the California Community College Football Coaches Association in 2010, Small only received one scholarship offer from the University of Arkansas.
Arkansas saw him as a fullback and moved him to the offensive side of the ball where he proved to be a bruising lead-blocker. Small broke 26 facemasks in his three seasons with Arkansas. He was a team captain as a senior and earned All-Southeastern Conference second-team honors. Arkansas ranked 21st in the nation last season with 208.7 yards per game on the ground with Small leading the way.
Small was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the seventh round last week. The Seahawks are seeking a potential long-term replacement for Michael Robinson, who remains an unsigned free agent after playing the last four seasons in Seattle.
Small made a solid impression to coach Pete Carroll over the three days of the team’s rookie mini-camp this weekend. Small caught the ball well out of the backfield and showed a willingness to get dirty as a blocker.
“He’s a legit fullback, he loves the position, and he has a sense for it and a little chip on his shoulder about it,” Carroll said. “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. He showed that. The position is not anything that he can’t handle.”
Small said he became a Seahawks fan during their run to the Super Bowl last season due mostly to their physical style of play on both sides of the ball.
“When I got drafted, it was a dream that I had since I was a kid, and then to come and get drafted 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 and things of that sort so it was pretty much like a dream come true.”
The dream seemed insurmountable during the daily grind working in the T-shirt wholesaler in Maryland. After multiple stops in college that took him all over the country, that dream is finally at hand.
“A lot of guys said when I was at home that I wouldn’t get into school and people said I wouldn’t get to a Division I university. So they can say what they want,” Small said. “I figure if I work hard and get a shot, it’s on me after that.”
Notes: Second-round WR Paul Richardson did not participate in the final two days of mini-camp after injuring his shoulder diving for a pass at the end of Friday’s practice. He’s expected to be fine in a few days. … Fourth-round LB Kevin Pierre-Louis sat out Sunday’s practice with a groin strain. … Sixth-round OT Garrett Scott still has not passed a physical to participate in workouts.
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