First-round pick speaks softly, delivers big hits

COMMENTARY: James Carpenter doesn't talk much, but his play said a lot to Seahawks coaches

May 1, 2011 

First-round pick speaks softly, delivers big hits

Offensive lineman James Carpenter smiled a lot and showed a disinclination to talk about himself Saturday morning when Pete Carroll, left, and the Seahawks unveiled their top draft pick at the team's Renton headquarters.

BY LUI KIT WONG/THE NEWS TRIBUNE — The Olympian

RENTON - According to newly drafted Seattle Seahawks tackle James Carpenter, he's a real chatterbox compared to what he used to be.

“I’ve learned to lighten up,” he said. “I talk a lot now.”

Actually, it appears that he gives up quotes as rarely as he gives up sacks. But that’s fine for the purposes of the Seahawks, who have a good history with tight-lipped tackles.

The Hawks’ first-round draft choice was introduced at the team’s headquarters Saturday morning. He comes off as a genial giant with a thick mane of dreadlocks, a big smile and a very humble manner.

One of his NFL role models, he said, was former Seahawks tackle Walter Jones – the team’s all-time soft-spoken southerner.

Carpenter has the look. At nearly 6-foot-5 and 322 pounds, Carpenter looks thicker than last year’s first-round pick, tackle Russell Okung. It should make him ideal as a run-blocking right tackle.

When the Hawks picked him Thursday, some media questioned why Carpenter was drafted ahead of some more visible tackles who were available.

Carpenter is too shy to talk about himself, but the nature of his play and his attitude said an enormous amount to Seahawks coaches and scouts. And that’s what set him apart from other prospects.

Dedication? Carpenter was an academic nonqualifier coming out of high school, forcing him to a junior college for two years. But he adapted so well once he got to Alabama that he has completed his four-year degree already.

Toughness? Carpenter started every game during his two seasons at Alabama. Here’s what makes that special: In the second game of his senior year, he suffered a high-ankle sprain. This is the kind of injury that can mean a month or two on the sideline for most NFL players.

Carpenter did not miss a snap the rest of the season.

When the Hawks’ new line coach/assistant head coach Tom Cable saw that kind of durability, Carpenter immediately rose into a special category. The only thing line coaches like better than big, strong tackles are big, strong tackles who refuse to miss games.

Stories had come out about some of Carpenter’s impressive pancake blocks of opponents. But he didn’t want to go into it when asked. He only said: “I have a lot of those memories.”

His father, James Sr., used to work at a Georgia pulp mill. His, mother, Geraldine, said that James was a 10-pound baby. So, her toughness goes without question.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider was fine that the pick of Carpenter surprised people. That was by design, he said.

“We tried staying under the radar with this guy,” Schneider said. “We told our group yesterday that we were very proud of them that his name never got out.”

They reportedly saw many of the same qualities in second-round pick John Moffitt, a guard from Wisconsin. Schneider said he was on the sidelines before the TCU-Wisconsin Rose Bowl. When the Badgers circled up for inspiration before the game, it was Moffitt at the center who was getting them fired up.

So, there were some questions at the end of this draft. The Hawks did very little to add depth at the lean position of defensive line. They passed on all the quarterback prospects although they have only one on the roster. They say they’re fine with that. They stayed true to their draft board.

Without any dispute, their goal of getting bigger and stronger was met, as the addition of the first two offensive linemen was then bolstered by a lanky linebacker, a 6-5 receiver and three straight defensive backs bigger than 6 feet and 200 pounds.

It’s another example of the way coach Pete Carroll stresses identifying and drafting players who have unique athletic qualities.

“We think we have found guys who fit what we’re looking for,” Carroll said. “We don’t care what anybody else thinks or what anybody else’s opinion is.”

Carroll and Schneider were convinced the additions of this draft made the Seahawks a better team.

And when it was finished, Carroll told the coaching staff: “Now it’s our job to prove it.”

Dave Boling: 253-597-8440 dave.boling@thenewstribune.com

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