MOBILE, Ala. – Pete Carroll’s sunglasses were perched atop his head. Reading glasses hung from his neck.
They were his tools of the trade for a day spent eyeballing football prospects, watching everything from weigh-ins to workouts on a day that started when the coach grabbed one Krispy Kreme doughnut, two napkins and set off to find Seattle’s future.
Carroll’s return to the NFL was more than just a storyline Monday morning. It was Seattle’s new reality.
“Great to get back into it,” Carroll said. “To get back here, and just get in the mindset, and make sure that I take advantage of this opportunity.”
The NFL’s decision-makers have descended here for the Senior Bowl. Well, not the game so much as the days of practice before the game, a leadup that began with Monday’s weigh-in at the Mobile Convention Center.
Players entered the room in groups of five or so. All were shirtless, wearing black compression shorts. Some wore socks, but those had to be taken off before they went on stage one at a time to be measured and weighed. Heights were called out to the fraction of an inch. Weights were rounded to the nearest pound.
Carroll sat in the fifth row, next to new Seahawks general manager John Schneider. They took notes. They whispered to each other as one by one the 100-some college seniors proceeded in this parade of potential.
None of this is new to Carroll. He came to the Senior Bowl when he was coaching in the NFL in the 1990s. He came when he was coaching with USC, but that was different. More like a social visit.
“I’ve come down here for years to see our players,” Carroll said. “I’ve come back every year to stop in for a practice or something just to stay kind of connected. It’s work now.”
A lot of work. Seattle holds three of the first 40 picks in April’s draft, and the new coach and general manager must decide where to start when it comes to rebuilding this roster.
Carroll didn’t have to look very far for one idea Monday afternoon when USC safety Taylor Mays had the most ooh-inspiring hit of the South team’s practice. Mays kept Citadel receiver Andre Roberts from coming down with the ball.
Carroll coached Mays in college. Could Seattle bring Mays back to Seattle, where he attended O’Dea, or will Seattle find that bedrock of a left tackle, a quarterback, or an offensive player who’s a home-run threat in the open field?
Those are the questions Carroll, Schneider and Seattle will be asking in three months of draft preparation that began in earnest Monday in the opposite corner of the country.
About halfway through the South workout, a cheer went up that had nothing to do with anything on the field. Alabama coach Nick Saban was driven through the crowd, the reigning king of college football making a social call.
The coach who dominated college football for so many of the previous nine seasons was on the opposite side of the stadium, trying to see Seattle’s future.