Stacy Rost

SEATTLE (CBS) – A month ago, while the Seattle Seahawks were in the thick of training camp, running back Thomas Rawls was just grateful for an opportunity to work with the team.

Now that Rawls has made Seattle’s 53-man roster, he’s grateful for another opportunity: the chance to learn from Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson.

“I’ve just been a sponge around him lately,” Rawls said when asked about Jackson’s influence. “Just trying to soak up as much as I can as far as running the ball, pass protection, running routes. Just everything surrounding the run game.”

Rawls says he likes being a physical runner but also wants to become versatile. In this way, veteran running back Fred Jackson presents a perfect learning opportunity for the rookie.

“That’s really my ultimate goal, is to learn as much as I can from [Lynch and Jackson] and just really improve my game.”

Through four preseason games, Rawls rushed for 158 yards on 30 attempts for one touchdown. He also had 42 receiving yards on 4 receptions for another touchdown. His performance was impressive enough to land him on the final roster behind Lynch and Jackson. Seattle lost two veteran backs after Robert Turbin landed on IR with a high-ankle sprain (he was later waived with an injury settlement) and Christine Michael was traded to the Dallas Cowboys.

There isn’t much time to let the move to the 53-man roster sink in; for now, Rawls is preparing for his first regular season NFL game this Sunday against the St. Louis Rams.

“They’re a hard defense. That’s all the coaches have been talking about. Their defensive coordinator is a good defensive coordinator and those guys are going to be well prepared and they’re going to be coming.”

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 14: Running back Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field on August 14, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Broncos defeated the Seahawks 22-20. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

SEATTLE, WA – AUGUST 14: Running back Thomas Rawls #34 of the Seattle Seahawks rushes for a touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at CenturyLink Field on August 14, 2015 in Seattle, Washington. The Broncos defeated the Seahawks 22-20. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

A Fit For Carroll’s System

Head coach Pete Carroll lauded Rawls’ physical running style during OTAs, calling him a “bright spot” who showed good feet and caught the ball well.

“I’ve studied Thomas a lot,” Carroll said in June. “I love his style of running. He’s really a head-knocker. He really goes after guys and when you guys get to see him put the pads on you’ll see how physical of a runner he is. He had play after play in college of just smacking people and running and breaking tackles and all that.”

Carroll and Schneider are wont to find players with chips on their shoulders and a drive to compete. Carroll has reiterated this idea as late as Monday; “This team is made up of a bunch of guys who have come to prove something,” he said, speaking about the addition of Jackson.

Rawls certainly falls into that group. Signing with Seattle as an undrafted rookie free agent, Rawls says he faced his share of obstacles growing up in Flint, Michigan. Despite his skill set as a running back, one of his obstacles included making major changes off the field in order to meet NCAA requirements for athletic scholarships. In his junior year, he worked to improve his GPA and studied through daily, hour-long ACT prep classes.

“I took the ACT about six or seven times,” says Rawls. “I’m not uneducated. But it’s hard, especially where I come from, to focus on academics and things of that nature. It is hard. But around my junior year, I got better at that and I started changing and trying to be uncommon — I didn’t want to be like the rest that I’d grown up watching.”

He’s come a long way from Flint — though he remains grateful for his roots.

“I think my past is brought to my future. And I’m from Flint and I’m a Flint product. You gotta be tough, you know? I think that’s where – actually, I know that’s where my tough mentality comes from. That’s where I feel like I can accomplish anything that I want. It’s rare to get out of Flint and pursue your dreams, and to, you know, just to go far in life. So I take pride in where I’m from and I try to make my family members and the people back home very proud.”

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