The Seattle Seahawks recently added a big name in Sidney Rice to the team’s corps of wide receivers. But receiver Mike Williams says don’t forget to keep an eye on a seldom-mentioned but familiar name also plying his trade in that group: Isaiah Stanback.
“He’s a big guy,” Williams said of the 6-foot-2, 225-pound Stanback. “He’s got the frame, burst and the straight-line speed. I don’t know if he is the fastest in our group, but there is an argument, if you don’t count Deon Butler.
“I feel he is going to have a good future here. I’m talking just wideouts. I know he has always been a good special teams guy. He’s been a high-effort guy, so his value to our team is definitely high. He is a willing blocker that wants to get in there and get dirty and get some contact. I think he can definitely impact our group.”
Stanback, a former standout quarterback at Seattle’s Garfield High School and the University of Washington, had his opportunity to earn a roster spot cut short during training camp last year. He tore his left Achilles’ tendon while working on his footwork running routes.
The injury, which followed an impressive first few weeks of practice, forced the team to put Stanback on the season-ending injured reserve list.
The injury was a tough setback, but Stanback already had dealt with the adversity of rehabbing from a serious injury; he had surgery to repair the Lisfranc joint in his right foot in his final season at Washington.
“It wasn’t that it was that hard, but more frustrating than anything because it’s one of those things where there isn’t a whole lot you can do to make it better that fast,” the five-year veteran said. “So you just have to wait and let the body heal.”
With NFL training camps just starting after the lockout, Stanback has been healthy enough to participate fully, and has seen some first-team reps in the first week of camp.
Williams, who has been one of the players providing tips for the former UW standout during practice, said Stanback looks as good as new.
“You can tell he has been working,” Williams said. “He is pushing himself. You can tell the leg is healthy, and you can tell he is confident and bursting and running well. We’re looking for him, the same thing we looked for last year before he went down.”
Williams also said Stanback is a natural athlete and, while he isn’t the best route runner, he works on it and is always asking for advice.
Although Williams expects Stanback to do well as a receiver, the former quarterback started playing the position full time only after getting drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in the fourth round of the 2007 NFL draft.
Stanback appeared in two games in 2007, but it wasn’t until 2008 that he recorded his first two receptions for the Cowboys.
The next year, Stanback was waived just before the start of the season and picked up by the New England Patriots, where he finished with three receptions for 22 yards. He was waived by the Patriots in 2010 and claimed by Seattle.
Roy Lewis, a former Huskies cornerback now with the Seahawks who has seen Stanback play both quarterback and wideout, said Stanback’s evolution from throwing to catching a football has been extraordinary.
“I mean, the guy has spent the majority of his life playing quarterback, so he was throwing to wide receivers,” Lewis said. “I’m pretty sure he has some type of insight on what receivers do, but to go out there and play the position and make the transition, he does a phenomenal job.”
Having made big strides already, Stanback said his maturation into a high-quality receiver is a work in progress.
“I’m definitely still learning,” Stanback said. “I look forward to the day when receiver is just a reaction for me. I still think about most things, and I think most people do. But it hasn’t become 100 percent natural yet.”
The Seahawks like the attributes Stanback brings with him to the field. They like the leadership and character traits he brings to the locker room even more.
“He’s a leader,” Lewis said. “He’s been a leader for as long as I can remember.”
Added Williams: “Isaiah is a funny guy. Imitations; he can imitate a bunch of guys. He brings the jokes. There is just a different vibe from Isaiah.”