Hawks' three no-name picks have plenty to prove
Bobby Wagner is used to people telling him what he can't do, used to people suggesting he get real and stop dreaming. But most important, he's...
Seattle Times staff columnist
RENTON — Bobby Wagner is used to people telling him what he can't do, used to people suggesting he get real and stop dreaming.
But most important, he's used to ignoring all of them and believing in himself.
In high school, friends, teachers, even family members told him they believed only 1 percent of players made it to the NFL. Only one school, Utah State, recruited him to play the game that would become his career.
"I'm used to people saying I can't do something and then I prove them wrong," Wagner said from Ontario, Calif. "And that kind of throws it in their face a little bit."
Welcome to the 2012 Seahawks' chip-on-your shoulder draft.
On the first two days of the draft, the Hawks chose Wagner, Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson, the hungriest players available. They didn't choose big names. They chose big talent. They took players who believe they know something about themselves that a lot of scouts didn't know. They picked players with something to prove.
Wagner didn't start out in football. He was a basketball player, believing that he would be the next Michael Jordan. He didn't begin seriously playing football until his junior year of high school.
"I got a late start in football," Wagner said. "Utah State was the only school that recruited me. Everybody else was telling me that I sucked. So I went to the school that had faith in me."
In Friday's second round of the NFL draft, Wagner became a 1 percenter. After trading with the New York Jets, the Seahawks chose him with the 47th pick. He will begin his career as a middle linebacker.
"The funny thing is, I'm that 1 percent and I graduate on May 5 from my college," Wagner said.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes that attitude.
"There really is something about that," he said. "It reminds us, I would think, of (2011 undrafted free agent receiver) Doug Baldwin. The kind of guy who came in here and he was up against the world and he was going to take it all on. And these guys are similar.
"I think it really speaks to the competitiveness of these kids. They're looking to really do something special."
Said Wagner, "I'm a hard worker," he said. "I'm a runner and I haven't really been playing football that long. So I've still got a lot to learn and a lot to develop."
First-round pick Bruce Irvin survived his hardscrabble beginnings, got his GED after dropping out of high school, got a chance to play football at Mount San Antonio College and became the Seahawks' top pick Thursday, after two sack-filled seasons at West Virginia.
"I trained every day like I had a chip on my shoulder and that's how I've always trained," Irvin said this week. "It's only the beginning."
And third-round pick, quarterback Russell Wilson, was told that, at 5 feet 11, he's too short to play in the NFL.
He played quarterback at North Carolina State. He played middle infield in the Colorado Rockies' organization in the Northwest League with Tri Cities, then came back to football for a final season at Wisconsin.
"People tell me that I'm too short. I've been told that my whole life," Wilson said. "I think the main thing is I have all the other tools. I have big hands, long arms, and the main thing is I have a big heart.
"You've got to be able to compete at the highest level. I've played in two great, great conferences in the ACC and Big Ten and shown that I can play at a very very high level and be very productive with the football. The main thing is just being very efficient and being a facilitator of the football and getting there to work every single day and compete."
After that pick, Carroll's first text came from Baldwin, telling his coach he loved the choice. In this chip-on-the-shoulder draft, Baldwin has found a new group of kindred spirits.
When Bobby Wagner was in high school, he met Carroll. Then the USC head coach, Carroll was recruiting Wagner's teammate Omar Bolden, a cornerback who eventually went to Arizona State.
Carroll wasn't interested in Wagner. Carroll doesn't even remember Wagner. Wagner hasn't forgotten.
"I like that chip that he has about me," Carroll said.
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or email@example.com
About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
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