New Seahawk Robert Gallery excelled after move from offensive tackle to guard. (Associated Press)
New Seahawk Robert Gallery excelled after move from offensive tackle to guard. (Associated Press)

Gallery proves that looks can be deceiving

RENTON, Wash. – Robert Gallery has a beard long enough to comb, and a bachelor’s degree in education from Iowa.

His hair hangs down past his shoulders, and he is tattooed down the length of his left arm. He’s also an Eagle Scout who has envisioned himself perhaps teaching elementary school.

The Seahawks’ new guard may look like a Hells Angel, but he’s truly a product of the American heartland.

He grew up on an 800-acre farm in Masonville, Iowa, a small town on the county line with not many more than 100 residents. There’s a grain elevator in town, a fish fry that’s open on the weekends and a few double takes whenever a certain NFL lineman is in town.

“You definitely get some looks and some funny comments when I go back home,” Gallery said.

People are looking at him in Seattle for a very different reason. Gallery signed with the Seahawks as a free agent from the Raiders, hand-picked by the coaching staff to play the position that has been Seattle’s little black hole for five years. Maybe Gallery can finally stop the spontaneous cursing that tends to afflict a Seahawks fan when Steve Hutchinson’s name is mentioned.

Gallery is 6 feet 7 and 325 pounds, and he will be the 11th different player Seattle has started at left guard since that guy left for Minnesota. The Seahawks used four players at the spot last year.

His job is to provide more than stability, though.

Gallery played under Tom Cable, Seattle’s new offensive line coach, the past four years in Oakland. At 31, Gallery is the veteran of this group. He’s the one who can tell the other linemen that Cable’s demanding style will not wane, but it will produce results.

It was Cable who changed the course of Gallery’s career. The No. 2 overall choice out of Iowa in the 2004 draft, Gallery played tackle his first three seasons and was being called a bust.

When Cable arrived as Oakland’s line coach in 2007, it took only a couple of days of practice before the coach saw Gallery’s future at guard.

“His size, his power inside, convinced me right away that here’s a guy that can really play guard,” Cable said. “And the left-guard position in this league is very important.”

That’s something this city understands well after Hutchinson’s departure to Minnesota in 2006. The Seahawks have tried all sorts of remedies since then. They promoted a veteran from within in Floyd Womack; they drafted Rob Sims; and they signed veteran free agents like Mike Wahle in 2008 and Ben Hamilton last year.

Gallery was signed to put a stop to that, and to help season an offensive line where the four other projected starters have a combined 27 regular-season starts. Plus, Gallery knows what it takes to succeed under Cable.

“If you’re a tough, hard-nosed guy that likes to get after it and get dirty and do the things that a real offensive lineman should do,” Gallery said, “then you’re perfect for this.”

Don’t let his appearance fool you. He may look like a roadie for a heavy-metal band, but he’s 100 percent from the heartland.

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