RENTON, Wash. – Justin Forsett has carried many labels in his football career.
Undersized, under-recruited, too slow, role player. … You get the idea.
But on Sunday, Forsett will earn a much more desirable title: starting running back in the NFL. Forsett rushed for 123 yards on 17 carries in relief of the injured Julius Jones last week, and will make his first start against the Minnesota Vikings.
Just don’t expect the second-year back to feel like he’s made it.
“It feels good, but there’s still doubters out there,” he said. “I’m sure there always will be. You might have people who say, ‘He did it one time, but that’s just one game.’ That’s the thing about this league, you’ve got to be consistent. It’s about: What have you done for me lately? A 100-yard game was good, but there has to be consistency. I don’t want to be the guy that had 123 yards in one game and that was it.”
The way Forsett played last week in Arizona, it’s hard to believe that one game will be it.
Forsett, considered not quite fast enough and not quite big enough to be an every-down back in the NFL, earned a place in Seattle’s offense this year as the third-down back. His role increased a little bit after the Seahawks cut Edgerrin James, and he finds himself as the starter with Jones sidelined with a bruised lung.
Fans have clamored all season for Forsett to get the ball more, and last week they got their wish. Forsett didn’t disappoint.
Forsett, a second-year player who was a seventh-round draft pick from the University of California, silenced a lot of doubters as he slashed his way through the Cardinals’ defense, one of the league’s best against the run.
“It looked to me, in watching the film, that he was very decisive with his cuts,” Seahawks coach Jim Mora said. “He had an understanding of where the cut was going to be, and he made the right cut. I felt like he was hitting the hole with real good quickness. He was getting to the hole quick, and then he made some people miss.”
Speaking of missing, plenty of college coaches were a bit off in their evaluation of Forsett when he was playing for Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas. None of the big programs in Texas recruited him, and even Division-II Abilene Christian asked him to walk on. Other schools were interested, including Notre Dame, but the Irish, then coached by Tyrone Willingham, changed their minds on Forsett before signing day.
“It was real tough, but it ended up being a blessing,” Forsett said. “Everything happens for a reason, and it was amazing to go to Cal.”
He sent tapes to coaches on the West Coast. The Golden Bears were interested, and Forsett eventually picked Cal, which offered him a scholarship in the spring, well after signing day.
Nothing has come easy for Forsett in football, so putting up huge number at Cal didn’t guarantee him anything come draft day. He ran what he said was a below-his-ability 40-yard-dash time in the 4.6-second range. That combined with his size caused Forsett to fall to the seventh round before the Seahawks finally called his name.
“Draft day was a hard day for me,” he said. “Just sitting around. I tried to sleep during the draft. Slept through most of the early parts. I thought I was going to go into free agency when the Seahawks called me.”
Since then Forsett has gone from Seattle to Indianapolis back to Seattle, and on Sunday he’ll make the biggest move of all – the jump into the spotlight as a starting running back.
“I’ve been preparing for it week after week, just in case something did happen,” he said. “… It’s exciting, it’s been a dream of mine to be able to start in this league, and this Sunday I get a chance to. It’s a blessing.”