RENTON, Wash. – Jermaine Kearse sat quietly at the podium for 15 minutes while to his left sat Kobe Bryant and Richard Sherman, and on his right was Grammy winning hip-hop artist Macklemore, all answering questions.
Not once was Kearse asked a question during the recent charity event, even if the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver was the only one to have scored a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
“They kept naming everyone and they skipped me. That was messed up,” Kearse joked on Sunday.
Once an undrafted free agent and seeming longshot to make the Seahawks roster, Kearse might now fall into the category of being a lock when the final 53-man roster is submitted at the end of the preseason. It’s a rise from being overlooked coming out of college to becoming established in the NFL that has become a familiar story for the Seahawks.
Kearse’s numbers do not scream of being a lock. He has 25 career catches in two seasons. But his knack for making important plays and contributing on special teams has his spot seeming secure.
“I just try and take every year as a new year in just trying to make the team again,” Kearse said. “I don’t like getting complacent.”
Looking back on last season, Kearse made two of the biggest catches – bookends – during Seattle’s Super Bowl run.
The first came in the season opener at Carolina, when he hauled in a leaping 43-yard touchdown pass from Russell Wilson that gave Seattle the lead in the fourth quarter of the 12-7 victory. Then came his 35-yard touchdown catch in the NFC championship game against San Francisco on a fourth-quarter, fourth-down play that gave Seattle the lead for good.
The Super Bowl was just the capper. Kearse had a season-high four receptions and a spinning, tackle-breaking 23-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the blowout victory over Denver.
Kearse was already receiving an expanded role last season, but when Sidney Rice went down midseason with a torn ACL, the amount he needed to contribute increased.
“Sid even came up to me after that, he came up to me and said, ‘This is your opportunity. Go out there and do the best that you can, make your plays when they come to you,’ and that shows you the type of group that we have.”
Rice’s retirement the day before the start of training camp took many by surprise. But how Kearse played last season lessened the concern.
“At the end of the day, the other guys are stepping up and looking tremendous right now,” Wilson said. “To have a tall receiver like Sidney definitely does help. His catching range is unbelievable, but I definitely believe Jermaine Kearse is going to be able to replace that … and be able to make that step.”
This is a big season for Kearse’s future and he seems to understand the possibility. This is the final year of his first contract and Kearse can be a restricted free agent next offseason. He just saw teammate Doug Baldwin, also undrafted out of college, sign a three-year extension for up to $13 million.
“I think it’s just trying to set myself up for bigger things. I’m just trying to be the best I can,” Kearse said. “A lot of people try and label me as a No. 3 or No. 4 receiver. I’m trying to take it further than that.”