The Seahawks needed offensive linemen.
They drafted three Saturday — including one, Albanian native Kristjan Sokoli from Buffalo, that Seattle will begin converting to center from defensive tackle during rookie minicamps Friday.
They needed pass rushers. They got one in Obum — “oh-BOOM” — Gwacham, who until last season at Oregon State was a wide receiver — plus a high jumper and triple-jumper. The native of Nigeria moved to the United States at age 7 when his family won a “visa lottery.”
The two-time defending NFC champions needed depth in its injured secondary. They got a long-armed, ball-hawking defensive back, Tye Smith, who took his only college scholarship offer to lower-division Towson four years ago rather than working “at McDonald’s or something.” They selected another, strong safety Ryan Murphy from Oregon State, who is a cousin of and went to the same Oakland Tech High School as Marshawn Lynch. He stayed in Lynch’s house when Murphy was 16.
Asked what Lynch told him to describe the Seahawks, Murphy said: “Competition.”
Pete Carroll’s Seahawks think they got more of that in their eight picks of the 2015 draft that ended Saturday.
One day after drafting defensive end Frank Clark, who’d been kicked off his Michigan team following an arrest and jailing on a charge of domestic violence, and 5-foot-10 wide receiver Tyler Lockett of Kansas State to be its new punt and kickoff returner, the Seahawks set out to fill holes.
Seattle targeted its shuffling offensive line twice in four picks to begin the day in round four. Terry Poole, a 6-foot-5, 323-pound hulk, played tackle at San Diego State. But Carroll said Poole will get an immediate chance to be left guard to replace James Carpenter, the former first-round pick who signed in March with the New York Jets.
Mark Glowinski, the 6-4, 310-pound guard Seattle drafted four picks after Poole, can also play all three positions.
“That’s the reason we took them,” Seahawks offensive-line coach Tom Cable said.
Cable also said Poole and Glowinski are both “nasty.”
“We wouldn’t take linemen who didn’t have that trait,” Cable said.
He knows his team needs to find a new center, too, with Max Unger gone to New Orleans in the trade to get tight end Jimmy Graham.
You remember him? The Seahawks aren’t forgetting the star tight end they got for trading the 31st-overall pick to New Orleans in March to galvanize the entire offense.
“When we look at the draft we feel like we should start with Jimmy Graham,” Carroll said.
Schneider kept talking about how fast and how smart Sokoli is, traits that come in handy for a center making protection calls with quarterback Russell Wilson. It’s one of Seattle’s biggest holes given how tight and effective Wilson was with Unger the last three seasons.
Just as they did with Sweezy after they drafted him as a defensive tackle in the seventh round in 2012, the Seahawks will give Sokoli plenty of time to learn offense. Patrick Lewis and Lemuel Jeanpierre, who both started last season at center while Unger was hurt, will return.
Sokoli played defensive end, left tackle, punter and kicker in high school, in Bloomfield, New Jersey. He said his background in Eastern European soccer has given him the ability to make field goals from 50 yards — not that the Seahawks and incumbent kicker Steven Hauschka want a 302-pound rookie center moonlighting there.
Sokoli’s family moved from Albania at age 9. His father left that Balkan nation as a political refugee when he was five while asking the U.S. for asylum. His mother left for America when he was 7. He stayed with an uncle until he was able to follow his parents in leaving the strife-torn country. It still living through what Sokoli called a horrible “aftermath” of social unrest that toppled Albania’s government and killed more than 2,000 of its citizens. That was during its 1990’s transition from fallen communism to democracy.
“It was tough ,” Sokoli said from New Jersey. “I don’t want to go into the political stuff, but every country that is transitioning from communism, it’s a tough transition, and it’s not easy for its citizens. Albania has come a long ways.”
So has he. A cousin who was something of a mentor for him upon his arrival in the U.S., one who taught him some of American football, was sent to prison for armed robbery of a New Jersey jewelry store.
No wonder Schneider said Sokoli was the most intensely fired up draftee that got the Seahawks’ call Saturday.
“I’m extremely appreciative,” he said. “To me, it’s about making myself proud, but also my inner family proud — and also all of the Albanians proud. We have so many hard-working, hard-boned Albanians that have gone through so much, and they didn’t get to accomplish as much because the opportunities simply weren’t there.
“For me to come to America and to be blessed with this opportunity, I have so much drive and push to really do it now. Not just for my family and for myself, but for my whole Albanian nation.”
Gwacham wowed the Seahawks in his lone season at defensive end at Oregon State; “he jumped off the film,” with his effort, Carroll said.
He also jumped all over Mexican food. He credits gaining 20 pounds in seven weeks, growing from his wide-receiver weight of 220, by eating “two or three times a day” at the Chipotle in Corvallis. Chicken burritos with black beans, guacamole, brown rice, medium salsa, lettuce and corn did the trick into making him big enough to now be a Seahawks defensive end — one still learning the basics of the position, but with speed that makes Seattle curious.
IRVIN CONTRACT OPTION
Carroll said he sat down with pass rusher Bruce Irvin before the draft began Thursday.
“I had a good meeting with Bruce and laid it out exactly what our plan is,” Carroll said.
The team has through Sunday to decide whether to pick up Irvin’s fifth-year contract option that would pay him $7.8 million in 2016.
Schneider said if the Seahawks don’t pick up the option it doesn’t mean the team doesn’t want to keep Irvin beyond his rookie deal that ends after the 2015 season. The team would rather have a multiyear extension at a lower annual salary than $7.8 million.
“It has nothing to do with a statement of what we feel about him,” Carroll said. “We’ve loved him in our program. We expect him to be here for a long time. And we will work to get that done when the time comes.”
EX-GREEN BERET AGREES AS FREE AGENT
Minutes after the draft the Seahawks agreed to contract terms with former U.S. Army Special Forces Green Beret Nate Boyer as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Texas.
Boyer built refugee camps and helped villagers in Sudan. A week after returning from that he volunteered for the Army.
“You fall in love thru the process with guys, giving guys a chance,” Schneider said.
After three tours of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, Boyer walked onto the Longhorns despite having never played competitive football.
“I appreciate America! I appreciate everybody!” he told NFL Network after the agreement that amounts to a spring tryout behind recently re-signed veteran free agent long snapper Clint Gresham.
Asked what he would say to his new Seahawks teammates when they all begin rookie minicamp Friday, Boyer said: “I want to earn their respect ... honestly, I’m nothing special.”
Carroll said of Boyer, smiling: “He’s going to hit somebody. We cherish competitors. ’Gresh’ better get ready.”
Eleven other undrafted free agents agreed to terms, including the half-brother of Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor, Keenan Lambert, a safety from Norfolk State.
The rest: T Jesse Davis, Idaho; WR Austin Hill, Arizona; SS Keenan Lambert, Norfolk State, SS Ronald Martin LSU; LB Quayshawn Nealy, Georgia Tech; RB Thomas Rawls, Central Michigan; CB Trovon Reed, Auburn; LB Alex Singleton, Montana State; DE Tory Slater, West Georgia; RB Rod Smith, Ohio State; FS Triston Wade, Texas-San Antonio.
Carroll said talks to extend QB Russell Wilson’s contract are “in motion,” though slow. “We want to keep him here forever,” the coach said, calling Wilson an “extraordinary” talent. “But it’s a big deal. There’s a lot of work to be done.”… The Seahawks didn’t draft a big WR most feel they need. That means it’s time for Chris Matthews. The breakout start of February’s Super Bowl with his first catches and touchdown of his career has the big-wide-receiver role all to himself this preseason — Graham splitting out wide notwithstanding.