Renton – He has earned everything during his football playing career, so when Chris Maragos arrived in Seattle as a practice squad addition during the second week of the regular season, all he wanted was an opportunity.
“My whole career, there’s always been a little crack in the door, and I’ve always said I just want to kick the thing open,” Maragos said. “Wherever I can fit in, whatever I can do, I’m just trying to look for my opportunities to excel. And when they present themselves, you’ve got to be ready to take advantage of them.”
Maragos received that chance a month later, when the Seahawks signed him to the active roster on Oct. 22 for the Cleveland game.
And he has made the most of it.
At 5-foot-10, 200 pounds, Maragos might not look like an NFL player, but he has played a role in Seattle’s success this season. Maragos said his first year in the league at San Francisco he was mistaken for kicker David Akers.
“That’s probably the best part,” he said. “When I tell people I work for the Seahawks they’re like, ‘Oh, are you in the accounting department?’ Or, ‘What are you, the ball boy?’
“There’s not a whole lot to me, but I really feel that what’s on the inside is what counts – and that’s having that desire and passion. I really feel like God has blessed me with a lot of ability, and every day I want to go out and maximize that.”
The second-year pro has been one of the Seahawks’ key players on special teams, with six tackles. And he backs up Seattle’s best defensive player, safety Earl Thomas.
“I’m trying to pattern my game after him,” Maragos said. “We’re kind of similar in body size, speed and some different things. So I’m just tying to watch what he does and get a feel for it within the system.”
Maragos, 24, started out at Western Michigan as an invited walk-on in 2005, the only Division I school offering the ability to earn a scholarship. Maragos said he was the last person on the depth chart when he arrived. He played two years there, catching 25 passes in his second season after redshirting his freshman year.
But when Western Michigan did not offer a scholarship, Maragos considered other options – including a return home to Racine, Wis.
That move made sense. His family had season tickets for Wisconsin football for years, and his older brother, Troy, was the Wisconsin mascot, Bucky Badger.
Maragos’ brother got him in touch with receiver Luke Swan at Wisconsin, a team captain who walked on and eventually earned a scholarship. Chris Maragos sent a message through Facebook, telling his story and sending along film from Western Michigan. Swan took a look, liked what he saw and told Wisconsin’s coaching staff about Maragos.
That meeting led to an invitation for Maragos to walk on at Wisconsin, where he spent his first year playing receiver on the scout team going against the first-unit defense. Defensive coaches noticed Maragos’ speed and aggressiveness, and thought he could play free safety.
So the following season he switched to defense and started about halfway through his junior season. His senior year he earned a scholarship, was honorable mention in the Big 10 Conference and a team captain.
Maragos also had a chance to learn from New York Jets safety Jim Leonard, another walk-on at Wisconsin who eventually earned a scholarship and returns to the campus during the offseason.
“He’s really helped me out a lot in my career, making the transition from receiver to defense,” Maragos said about Leonhard. “He would come back in the offseason when he was playing for the Ravens and the Jets, and we would watch film together. And he would show me different things and teach me. He’s been huge in my development.”
Maragos ran a 4.47 in the 40-yard-dash on his pro day at Wisconsin, catching the eyes of San Francisco, who signed him as an undrafted rookie free agent in 2010.
After spending his rookie season with the Niners, Maragos was released during final roster cuts in September this year before catching on with Seattle.
“It’s a testament to the way that he studies,” Seattle defensive backs coach Kris Richard said. “His commitment to learning and knowing our defense coming in late, he had to push and play catch-up.
“He’s a fantastic athlete and a really smart individual. We can put him in and I wouldn’t worry one bit because he’s into it. He’s doing a heck of a job for us on special teams right now. And truly he’s just biding his time. But guys like that always make your room better. He’s humble, hungry and athletic.”
Seattle linebacker David Hawthorne (knee) and defensive end Raheem Brock (knee) missed their second straight practice on Friday. Cornerback Kennard Cox (hamstring) was a limited participant for a second straight day. Cornerback Byron Maxwell (illness) and Tarvaris Jackson (pectoral) were full participants. … For St. Louis, quarterbacks Sam Bradford (ankle) and A.J. Feeley (right thumb), defensive end Chris Long (ankle), kick returner Quinn Porter (abdomen), defensive tackle Fred Robbins (back), and fullback Brit Miller (knee) did not practice. Defensive end Eugene Sims (ankle) is limited, and offensive tackle Mark LeVoir (chest) was a full participant.