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Originally published Tuesday, August 18, 2009 at 7:48 PM

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Seahawks TE John Carlson is ready for a breakthrough sophomore season

As a rookie last season, Carlson caught a team-high 55 passes, most for any rookie tight end and fourth among all rookies regardless of position

Seattle Times staff reporter

RENTON — Tight end John Carlson brought "The Tipping Point" to training camp.

It's a book that discusses that specific moment when an idea or trend achieves a critical mass and then spreads rapidly. The phenomenon applies to everything from illness to fashion trends.

"I've been trying to get into it," Carlson said. "But training camp is kind of getting in the way of that."

No time to read about "The Tipping Point" because Carlson is too busy living it. If there is one player on the Seahawks offense poised for that breakthrough moment it is the 25-year-old tight end who was the singular bright spot from the passing game last year.

Carlson caught a team-high 55 passes as a rookie, most for any rookie tight end and fourth among all rookies regardless of position.

Not bad for a guy who was in his first month of marriage when he reported for his first day at a new job. He was a Seahawks rookie in August 2008, all earnest and sincere with a streak of humility that stretched from here to Minnesota.

"I'm not even thinking about what I have to do to start," Carlson said on his first day of training camp. "My mindset is to do whatever I have to do to help this team, what my role will be. At this point in time, I'm going to do whatever I can to improve."

No way to undersell this season, right? Not after setting a Seahawks record for receptions by a tight end. Carlson's got to have some big things in mind, right? Tony Gonzalez-type numbers or Pro Bowl possibilities? He caught three more touchdowns than Philadelphia's DeSean Jackson, the wide receiver everyone was so ga-ga over.

So how about it, John? Sky's the limit this year since so much has changed.

"It's different, but it's not," Carlson said. "I'm a little more comfortable this year than I was last year, but at the same time, I'm a second-year player.

"Again, I want to contribute. I want to do whatever I can to help this team win."

You can take the player out of small-town Minnesota, but you're not going to take small-town Minnesota out of Carlson.

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He comes from a town of 7,000 people, arguably, and was a three-sport athlete at Litchfield High School, playing football, basketball and — umm — tennis? Yep. Tennis. His father coached the sport, and older brother Alex was a heck of a singles player.

"I played doubles," John said.

Opponents certainly thought twice before charging the net and coming face to face with the 6-foot-5 Carlson.

"Just as an overall athlete, he was a notch above," said Jon Johnson, Carlson's football coach at Litchfield.

Carlson was a basketball player first who grew into a football powerhouse. He caught 10 touchdown passes as a freshman while his brother was quarterback, and had a pretty good idea football might be his future. He was a 6-foot-5 center in basketball, and there's not much of a market for them at the next level.

But in the NFL, that makes him an absolute tower, and on the first play of Saturday's exhibition game he showed that he's not some sort of beefed-up receiver Seattle's trying to shoehorn at tight end.

On the first play of Seattle's exhibition game in San Diego on Saturday night, offensive coordinator Greg Knapp watched as Carlson matched up against Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman.

"We went to John's side, and we got an 8-yard gain because he stalemated Merriman at the line of scrimmage," Knapp said.

Tight ends have shown a tendency to thrive under Knapp. His three seasons in Atlanta were also the three most prolific seasons in the career of tight end Alge Crumpler, who averaged 56 catches in Knapp's offense from 2004 to 2006.

That's the starting point for Carlson, who prepares for a sophomore season that could turn out to be his own tipping point to stardom — if he ever finds time to read the book.

Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or doneil@seattletimes.com

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