In a CenturyLink Field locker room overpopulated with 37 Seahawks players vying to survive the Sept. 2 roster cut, Tre Madden shares a cramped cubicle a few feet from the entrance.
There’s a couple of hangers for street clothes, but no space for a duffel bag or a backpack. If locker rooms were Monopoly boards, Madden’s temporary address would be on Baltic Avenue.
But tucked inside the locker on Friday night was a precious possession for the second-year pro: The football he caught in the end zone against Kansas City. It was the former USC tailback’s first touchdown since 2015.
The Seahawks’ 26-13 preseason victory over the Chiefs contained enough highlight catches to entertain those fans able to stay awake through a slop-fest bogged down by 27 accepted penalties. Jermaine Kearse, Doug Baldwin, Chris Carson, Tanner McEvoy and Jimmy Graham each pulled in a reception, typically acrobatic, of at least 25 yards.
But in human-interest terms, no Seahawks catch was as significant as Madden’s 2-yard touchdown reception from quarterback Russell Wilson. The pass was tipped, requiring Madden to make a full pivot before securing the ball below his knees.
“It was very fulfilling and a great feeling, especially for my family watching at home,” said Madden, whose parents live in the Los Angeles area. “It was emotional for them. When it happened for me, I was just trying to execute as a player and help the team.
“But looking back on it, it’s a great story.”
The story could be titled: “I Love Football More Than Football Loves Me Back.”
A two-way high school star, Madden played linebacker as a USC freshman in 2011, then was switched to offense. But a knee injury sidelined him for the entire 2012 season, and hamstring problems kept him out of action for half of 2013. Madden missed all of 2014 with a turf-toe ailment.
Madden recovered and produced consistently for nine games as a senior, only to suffer another knee injury that kept him out the Holiday Bowl. Such a checkered health history reduced his NFL stock, and when he hooked up with the Seahawks last season, it was as an undrafted free agent. He spent it on the injured reserve while the Hawks presented him with the challenge of reinventing himself at fullback.
Pete Carroll remains among a handful of NFL head coaches who still believe fullbacks can be a viable component in a power ground game. It’s why the Seahawks re-signed Marcel Reece, a four-time Pro Bowl selection whose 6-foot-1, 250 pound frame is well-suited to help clear room for the running back behind him. Although Reece can catch the occasional pass — he was a wide receiver at Washington — the veteran’s value is as a blocker.
The 6-0, 235-pound Madden is not as imposing a physical presence, but the erstwhile linebacker offers the Hawks a versatility in ways Reece doesn’t.
“He’s gotten better during these three games. He catches the ball well and he runs well — I saw that in the first game,” said Carroll, referring to Madden’s 51-yard gain following a short swing pass against the Chargers. “He’s also a guy we can count on for special teams.
“He’s helping himself, making a run. He and Marcel are going to battle it out, all the way to the end.”
Madden brings impressive bloodlines into the battle. His maternal grandfather, Lawrence McCutcheon, was an All-Pro running back for the Rams and later served as their director of player personnel. Uncle Daylon McCutcheon, who played cornerback for the Browns, works as an assistant defensive backs coach with the Jets. Madden’s father, Curtis, alternated between fullback and defensive end at Kansas State.
“After my injury last year, I focused on putting on weight so I can stay on my blocks as a fullback,” said Madden. “I’ve never played the position before, so it really helps to be able to look a veteran like Marcel Reece and see how he approaches the game.
“There’s little nuances involved in making plays happen.”
Take, for instance, the reception that gave the Seahawks a 13-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
“He did a great job, because the guy on him made a really good defensive play,” Wilson said. “Tre concentrated. He’s got great hands. He made an unbelievable play for the touchdown.”
While recalling the sequence afterward, Madden spoke with a high-beam smile. At 24, having endured the ups and downs of a sport he was born to play, he realizes every move a roster candidate makes will be evaluated in the film room.
What Wilson termed unbelievable actually was inevitable.
“I wasn’t going to let the ball hit the ground,” said Madden, not fazed by his less-than-glamorous locker assignment.
He was in the room.