Get used to the spelling: Willson impresses at minicamp

dave.boling@thenewstribune.comMay 12, 2013 

Rice tight end Luke Willson, shown during the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl in January, has made an impression at Seahawks minicamp with his athleticism and pass-catching ability.

RIC TAPIA/THE ASSOCIATED PRESS FOR THE NFLPA

For the second consecutive season, an eye-catching performance at the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp has been produced by a guy named Wilson. Give or take an “L.”

This time, it’s Russell Wilson’s prospective teammate, tight end Luke Willson who has been busy grabbing attention as a fifth-round draft pick.

Coach Pete Carroll cited Willson as the player who “jumped out” in Friday’s first day of minicamp, and with another solid day Saturday, Willson now has more catches as a hopeful Seahawk than he did all last season at Rice (nine).

Willson is another of this year’s group of rookies who display certain unique talents or physical characteristics. Willson, at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, clocked a pro-day workout 40-yard time of 4.51 seconds, which, by comparison, matched the time wide receiver Sidney Rice ran at his combine.

An ankle injury diminished Willson’s role last season, when he caught just nine passes, but the Seahawks scouts loved his sophomore and junior films, as well as his workout numbers.

Friday, Willson ran an out route and caught a ball in traffic and then turned up the sideline and outsprinted the defense another 50 yards for a score.

“I think the more I feel I can get comfortable, the faster I’ll be able to play,” Willson said Saturday.

Willson, also a pitching prospect for the Toronto Blue Jays, made the disorienting relocation from his home in Ontario, Canada, to Rice in Houston. He pulled in 62 receptions as a sophomore and

junior, and spent much of his time last season as a blocker.

“I think it’s definitely something I can work on,” he said of the blocking duties expected of NFL tight ends. “I don’t shy away from blocking; it’s something I embrace.”

On draft weekend, all these guys are just stats and measurements and a few highlight clips shown on television. But when they arrive and put on a Seahawks uniform, they sprout into three dimensions, and their actual toughness and temperament are on display.

And in the first two practices, some of the things that attracted Seahawks staffers to these guys was obvious.

Third- and fifth-round defensive tackles Jordan Hill (Penn State) and Jesse Williams (Alabama) disrupted a high proportion of the offensive plays with their penetration.

Fourth-round receiver Chris Harper (Kansas State) is another of the unconventional prospects. At 6-1, 234, he’s bigger than some Seahawks linebackers, and he seems to be able to capitalize on that strength by overpowering press coverage and going after balls in traffic.

He’s new, he’s different, and they have no one else like him.

Fifth-round cornerback Tharold Simon, at 6-2, 202, looks like a fit for the physical secondary already in place, and has a wingspan to match the likes of Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. Had there been officials at some of the scrimmage sessions the first two days of this camp, Simon might have been flagged for roughness with the regularity of secondary predecessors who earned the nickname “Legion of Boom.”

The efforts of rookie running backs Christine Michael and Spencer Ware were tough to judge given the absence of live tackling, and the three offensive line draft picks likewise appeared to meet the appropriate size and athleticism standards, but were hard to assess beyond that.

Before the minicamp started, Carroll showed his staff a little video from last year’s rookie gathering in which Russell Wilson took the field and proceeded to look every bit the rookie, with botched snaps and missed assignments. But, given the chance to prove himself, and a lot of work, he turned into a Pro Bowl quarterback.

“It was kind of for the staff to remember that we might not see everything on the first day, and to keep hopes that we can bring some stuff out of these guys,” Carroll said.

Some of what is seen in a rookie camp is an illusion, or at least distorted by the fact that everyone is playing against fellow rookies – free agents and tryout guys who will never again put on an NFL jersey after camp wraps up today.

They’re such new meat that many who were interviewed commented on how beautiful the weather is in Seattle.

They have a great deal to learn.

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

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