Justin Britt was born for this.
No, really, he absolutely was born to play offensive tackle in the NFL.
His mother Kelly can vouch for that. She had Justin 23 years ago this past May. He was born weighing 111⁄2 pounds.
“Eleven pounds, eight ounces,” Britt said with a smile, wanting to be completely clear down to the exact ounce on how big he was — and still is. “Don’t cheat me, now!
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“If my boy is that big, I might as well as bank on him making it, too.”
Britt has continued growing, all the way to 6 feet, 6 inches and 325 pounds. And, yes, he is making it so far. He is the rookie starting right tackle on the Super Bowl champions.
The Seahawks’ second-round draft choice out of Missouri is so far holding off recently acquired veteran Eric Winston for the job. If practices and repetitions are an accurate indicator, Friday night’s game against San Diego at CenturyLink Field will be Britt’s second consecutive start of the exhibition season.
“This has always been something I’ve been chasing,” Britt said, “ever since I was little,”
He meant young, of course. He’s never been little.
Britt started in his first NFL “game” last week at Denver. Offensive line coach Tom Cable and coach Pete Carroll both praised the rookie for holding his ground against menacing DeMarcus Ware and Denver’s feisty defensive front.
The Broncos stunted and blitzed as if it was Super Bowl Redemption Night for them.
After a 45-minute lightning delay, Britt joined the Seahawks’ makeshift offensive line missing starters Russell Okung, James Carpenter and Max Unger in adjusting for the game’s second drive.
Britt helped smooth the way to a 90-yard march to Seattle’s only touchdown Thursday.
Asked how Britt was doing, Cable said: “So far, I would give him an A.
“But it’s an A-minus, so he’s still got work to do,” the veteran line coach said following the Seahawks’ most-recent training-camp practice Sunday. “The biggest thing he is doing is progressing.
“What I was very impressed with were his in-game adjustments. I mean, for a guy who had never done it before, regardless if it was a first preseason game, that was good to see.
“Really, he was fine.”
Cable said Britt and neighbor guard Stephen Schilling “overset,” or moved too far outside prematurely, in the middle of the first quarter. That allowed a Bronco on a stunt to rush in free on quarterback Russell Wilson.
“But it became a great lesson (for Britt). They ran that stunt three more times and it never fazed him,” Cable said. “Good adjustment.”
Some so-called draft experts thought Seattle “reached” to get Britt. Those people had pegged him to go in the later rounds.
Those “experts” didn’t know the precious, little motivator that drives this mountain of a man.
Britt’s NFL destiny took a stunning detour nine games into his 2012 junior season at Missouri. He tore the anterior cruciate ligament and the meniscus in his right knee while chasing down a Florida Gators defensive player following an interception.
“I thought that dream might slip away when I had my knee surgery,” he said. “But I came back in four months. And I kept grindin’.”
His motivation to return and get his NFL dream back on track is as small as he is big.
Two months after the reconstructive knee surgery, on Dec. 4, 2012, his fiancée Alicia Bratten gave birth to their daughter, Navy Noelle Britt.
“My goal has always been going to the pros and making a career out of football. That hasn’t changed, the only thing that has changed is who I am doing it for,” Britt told the Lebanon (Missouri) Daily Record, his hometown newspaper, in December 2013.
With motivation he could hold sweetly in the palm of his giant hand, Britt returned like a boss. The region’s media selected him first-team all-Southeastern Conference at left tackle last season. He helped pave Missouri’s way to school-record 3,300 yards rushing.
His draft stock went from simmering to soaring during a nationally televised game against South Carolina last fall. Britt neutralized defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, holding the eventual first-overall draft choice by the Houston Texans in May to just four solo tackles and no sacks.
“It was clicking before that I was going to be doing this one way or another,” he said. “But that game was a stepping stone.”
His latest challenge came when he faced Ware, the seven-time Pro Bowl end and two-time NFL sack leader, one-on-one four times in the first quarter and a half. Winston replaced Britt late in the first half when he entered with the second offense.
“That was fun,” Britt said, smiling over facing off with Ware.
“I knew my assignments. I didn’t have many mental errors. ... Now, it’s technique. It’s extremely important in this league. Every lineman will tell you how important it is to have your technique perfect on every play. There were times I was too high on my pass protection and there were times I was too high on my run blocking. It’s stuff that I’ll fix this week and really grind at.
“I got to see what it was like. Coming into this game (Friday) it’s a completely different kind of defense I will be seeing. But I got an idea of what to expect as far as the physicality aspect.”
Physicality? That comes with the territory from Day 1 — literally, Day 1 — when you are born weighing about a dozen pounds.