RENTON, Wash. – “Don’t watch every pick,” Jeremy Lane’s agent Jim Ivler warned him before last April’s NFL draft. The healthiest way to survive the weekend for Lane, according to Ivler, was to get out of the house, get away from all of the talking heads and all of the speculation and let Ivler worry about the where and when of the draft.
“I watched every pick,” Lane said, laughing last week at his innocence. “I don’t wish that on anybody. I never want to go through that again.”
Twenty-two cornerbacks were drafted over the three days of the draft before the Seahawks chose Lane in the sixth round. Maybe it was because he came from an FCS school, Northwestern State of Natchitoches, La. More likely it was because he ran a surprisingly slow 4.48, 40 at his Pro Day.
“I heard from guys before my Pro Day that they’re not going to give you a lot of time to warm up before your 40,” Lane said. “I’m kind of tight, so it takes me a little minute to warm up. I didn’t get enough time to warm up and I was pretty slow. I was pretty embarrassed.”
“I knew I was faster than that. When I told people I ran a 4.48, nobody really believed me, but I did. I usually run about 4.38 or 4.40. I just hoped it didn’t mess anything up.”
From the day he arrived at VMAC for rookie minicamp, Lane made a point of letting the players, the coaches, the observers who lined the practice field, know he was there.
“He wasn’t scared to mix it up with anybody,” said starting cornerback Richard Sherman. “You’re not about to challenge him and have him back down. He’s not going to back down from anything.”
“First time I saw him, I saw a dog. Some players have the dog in them. Some players don’t. It’s something you can’t teach. You can’t coach. You can’t develop. It’s something that’s either in you, or it’s not. He has a big dog and if you’ve got a big dog in you, you’ll find a way to make it in this league.”
Early in training camp, Lane and veteran wide receiver Ben Obomanu, a no-nonsense, tough guy with a similar underdog’s mindset, got into several spirited scuffles.
“At first I was annoyed,” Obomanu said, “just because you have a young guy, you already know how their intent is sometimes to do as much as they can to make a team, to make an impression. So at first it became annoying and that’s why we had a couple of tussles.
“He earned my respect just because he didn’t back down. He always kept stepping back up to the plate, and was trying to take the challenge of guarding and doing one-on-ones with Sidney (Rice), T.O. and Braylon (Edwards), some of the guys he had seen before. At the end of the day, his personality is to keep fighting.”
That was the dog in Jeremy Lane. “It was me just playing ball,” he said. “It just happened to be him every time I got into a little scuffle. It wasn’t personal.”
Buried in all of the stories about Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Sherman, Chris Clemons, Golden Tate – the stars of the Seahawks – are the smaller stories. The ones about the role players who repeatedly have stepped up when a player in front of them has been injured, or in Lane’s case, suspended.
The unsung role players have kept the Seahawks rolling. When the seriousness of cornerback Brandon Browner’s suspension was compounded by hamstring injuries to Walter Thurmond and Marcus Trufant, Lane became the next man up.
He started the final three games of the regular season and, although he struggled at times Sunday against St. Louis, the Hawks are 3-0 in Lane’s starts.
“He’s a starter in this league,” Sherman said. “We made sure he knew that. He could start for any other team.”
in this league. That’s the confidence we have in him.”
Lane, who comes from Tyler, Texas, the same hometown as backup quarterback Matt Flynn, is soft-spoken, almost shy. The young, thoughtful player you’re talking to in front of his locker before practice bears little resemblance to the feisty corner you see on Sundays.
“It’s about being the underdog and coming in here and playing with a chip on my shoulder,” Lane said. “Since the first day of rookie minicamp I’ve tried to make a name for myself, whether it was on special teams, or defense.”
All season at CenturyLink, Lane has stood on the field before the Seahawks’ starters were introduced, stared back into the tunnel and waited for the those players to sprint onto the field.
Lane has heard the roars of the 67,000 and the thunder of the fireworks. “Man I can’t wait ’til the day my name gets called,” Lane told himself. Last week against San Francisco his moment came. His heart hammering inside his chest, he thought about his high school coach, and he thought about his 4-year-old daughter.
“At cornerback! From Northwestern State! No. 20! Jeremy Lane!” “When I heard my name called,” Lane said, “I wanted to cry.”