Sports

Seahawks’ Willson makes most of NFL opportunity

Seahawks backup tight end Luke Willson celebrates his first NFL touchdown catch against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 8. (Associated Press)
Seahawks backup tight end Luke Willson celebrates his first NFL touchdown catch against the San Francisco 49ers on Dec. 8. (Associated Press)

RENTON, Wash. – Flanked by his extended family and half a dozen friends, Luke Willson sat in his parents’ basement watching the 2013 NFL draft.

His phone rattled. Seahawks general manager John Schneider was on the other end. He told Willson he was about to be picked by Seattle in the fifth round.

“Jubilation,” Willson said of his reaction.

That call and Anthony McCoy’s partial tear of his Achilles’ heel in the summer gave Willson the opportunity to join the NFL’s best team. It also landed him next to Pro Bowl tight end Zach Miller.

This is Miller’s seventh NFL season and third with the Seahawks.

It’s also his seventh year working with offensive line coach Tom Cable. Miller’s understanding of all elements in the Seahawks’ scheme – running, passing and blocking – is complete.

Willson is just starting.

“Going into the season, we knew we had kind of a raw kid,” tight ends coach Pat McPherson said. “Could really run. Catch the ball very well. Tough. Competitive. The whole deal.”

Willson, 6-foot-5 and 252 pounds, came to the Seahawks from Rice University, where the Owls ran a lot of speed option on offense. He didn’t have majestic receiving numbers. His career high in receptions was 33 in 2010, and Willson caught just nine passes his senior season in 11 games.

He was thrilled to join the Seahawks and latched onto Miller early.

“Zach’s such a complete tight end, so that’s been the biggest thing for me,” Willson said. “That’s on and off the field. He catches the ball, he runs good routes.”

The Seahawks look to their second tight end to be more of a situational player than the all-around tight end that Miller is. Kellen Davis is often in to block. Willson is predominantly used for his pass-catching ability. He has 18 receptions for 265 yards.

He exploited the San Francisco 49ers when Seattle lost at Candlestick Park in Week 14. Willson, who has been timed at 4.51 in the 40-yard dash, caught his first NFL touchdown after blowing past 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis and breaking into the clear for a 39-yard score.

“Against the 49ers, he had a couple plays, wow, just accelerating to the ball,” McPherson said. “The one against Willis was a tremendous route.”

Miller tries to convey points to Willson from a player’s perspective.

“You try not to give him too much but give him what he needs,” Miller said. “Give him what will help him the most.”

Injury updates

After not participating in Wednesday’s practice, S Kam Chancellor (quadriceps) had full a practice Thursday. … G J.R. Sweezy (concussion) and CB Jeremy Lane (ankle) did not participate in the practice. … Miller (ribs) and RB Robert Turbin (groin) were limited in practice.



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