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Hustlin’ Joey Hunt may have cemented his place on 2019 Seahawks with one, unique play

Seahawks center Joey Hunt describes his hustle play in preseason game at Minnesota

Seahawks center Joey Hunt describes his hustle play in last weekend’s preseason game at Minnesota.
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Seahawks center Joey Hunt describes his hustle play in last weekend’s preseason game at Minnesota.

Joey Hunt is a film star.

Wait....what?

A backup center with overflowing hair and a similarly unrestrained beard who has started just three games in his three-year NFL career a star?

This week, in Seahawks’ meetings, he absolutely is.

Hunt made a play in last weekend’s preseason game at Minnesota that few NFL centers can—or are willing to—make.

It is currently a shining example inside Seahawks headquarters of how a guy can make coach Pete Carroll’s team with more than stats and hits, more than by having starting jobs or backup roles secured.

Hunt was Seattle’s sixth-round draft choice from TCU in 2016. He has spent three years as the backup to Justin Britt at center. He plays just one position on the offensive line. The Seahawks have another backup center in Ethan Pocic, who started at center in college at LSU. Pocic is valuable because he also has played tackle and currently is the fill-in starting left guard for injured Mike Iupati.

Logic says Hunt has an outside chance at making the team. But here’s why you’d be wise to include Hunt on your projected 53-man roster the Seahawks must set Aug. 31:

He may have cinched his place on Seattle’s roster for the fourth consecutive season with a play Carroll is still raving about it, days later. Carroll says he’s going to show it in team meetings “from now on.”

As in, for as long as he’s the Seahawks’ coach.

On the last play of the third quarter Sunday, third and 9 from the Vikings 43-yard line, Hunt snapped the ball back to quarterback Paxton Lynch and immediately began looking for defenders to repel.

“Yeah, you know, snap, block. Like every other play,” Hunt said.

While Hunt did his job, Lynch completed a pass to Jazz Ferguson for the first down But the undrafted rookie wide receiver fumbled while being hit by Minnesota cornerback Duke Thomas. The ball bounded toward Vikings defenders. Seattle’s chance to take the lead in a 17-13 game seemed lost.

That’s when Hunt looked up from the defensive lineman he’d been blocking and sprinted his hair, his beard and the rest of his 299 pounds about 15 yards to the ball, which was still bounding in the Vikings secondary. The sight of a squatty 53 among numbers 87, 34 and other so-called “skill-position” players was striking.

And decisive.

Hunt dived at the ball and kept Minnesota from recovering the fumble. Seahawks teammate Jackson Harris, a reserve tight end, did instead, at the Vikings 21. Hunt then covered Harris to ensure no Viking tried to steal the ball from him while on the turf. The Seahawks kept possession.

“I saw the ball on the ground,” Hunt said. “And when the ball is on the ground, it’s ours.

“I had to go get it. ... I was trying to run fast. Hopefully, I didn’t look too slow.”

Slow? Hunt got there quickly for a center. For anyone.

Are 15-yard sprints something he works on, just in case of what happened Sunday?

“Awww,” he said, laughing. “I mean, I’m not really working on sprints for fumbles.

“Hopefully, we don’t put the ball on the ground.”

He grinned again.

Six plays after Hunt’s motivated—and motivating—one, Jason Myers kicked a field goal to pull Seattle to within 17-16. Hunt kept his team in the game with a play that didn’t show up on any stat sheet.

But it’s shown up in Seahawks team meetings since Sunday night.

hunt
Reserve center Joey Hunt at the start of practice Thursday at Seahawks headquarters in Renton. He may have secured his place on the Seattle’s regular-season roster with a hustle play in Sunday’s preseason game at Minnesota. Coach Pete Carroll has been raving about it this week. Gregg Bell/The News Tribune

Sure, it was just a preseason game. Yet Carroll and his staff are using Hunt’s play all this week—and beyond—as an example to all players how to make the team.

Talent in blocking, rushing, catching, passing, tackling and kicking aren’t the only ways.

They reward hustle and desire, too.

“Joey’s play was probably the play of the night. In terms of how we want to play. In terms of effort. In terms of everybody laying it on the line,” quarterback Russell Wilson said Thursday.

“Joey’s always been that type of player. He did a great job of that. That’s what it takes, sometimes things are going to happen, not the way you want. Jazz has had a great preseason. The ball got stripped away from him.

“And then (to have) Joey go in there and save the day was tremendous.”

Carroll was so hyped about Hunt’s hustle, he took my postgame question about rookie Ugo Amadi’s perfect sprint and tackle on a Vikings punt return earlier in the game and turned it into an unsolicited rave about Hunt.

“That was a perfect play, yeah. It was a beautiful play. Really, the best play of the game was Jackson Harris getting the fumble back for us,” Carroll said outside the visitor’s locker room in Minneapolis. “I think Joey Hunt might have gotten a shot knocking the ball out, which was extraordinary, not giving up on it. Then an incredible fumble recovery to put the ball back. ...

“That was really, really a great football play.”

Carroll regretted he did not mention Hunt’s play to the team in the locker room immediately following the game.

But he sure did Tuesday during film review of the game. And again in a team meeting. And he will again throughout the rest of the preseason. Into the regular season—and beyond.

“I can’t even imagine a guy making a better play on the football field than what he did,” Carroll said Wednesday. “He came out of nowhere. Blocked on the line of scrimmage. Full, dead sprint. Nothing in his mind but to get after the football. Knocked it loose for us.

“If you noticed, he scrambled back up and covered up Jackson Harris who made the recovery, which is exactly what they’re trained to do. The intensity, the effort, the perfection of really getting the job done.

“They’re getting the ball back and we took it right away. A huge play, huge play. They had possession. And we took it away.”

Hunt said he was flattered at Carroll making a big deal out of his effort.

“Anytime, you want what you put on tape to be a teach tape, to be honest with you,” he said. “Effort is something we pride ourselves on here, as an organization. So, I mean, you want to give maximum effort, every play, the whole day.

“Yeah, I feel it’s definitely flattering to have that up there.”

Backup center Joey Hunt made have won his way back onto Seahawks’ roster for the start of this regular season with one hustle play in The preseason game at Minnesota.

Hunt laughed again when I asked him if he felt plays like he made can help cement his place on the Seahawks’ regular-season roster.

“I have no idea,” he said. “I mean, I feel like it’s human nature to want guys who want it more.

“But I have no idea.”

Carroll has a pretty good one.

“Does it enter in? Heck, yeah,” he said.

“I can’t ask for a guy to compete better than that. So that was awesome.”

Asked if he’ll continue using Hunt’s hustle as a highlighted play in the team’s meetings, Carroll said: “Oh, yeah. It’s already been shown.

“And it’ll be shown from now on. It’s one of those plays.”

The News Tribune’s Gregg Bell on rookie first-round draft choice L.J. Collier’s return to the field, why Russell Wilson bought into the Sounders, more from Seahawks two days before the third preseason game.

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
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