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Sports >  Seattle Seahawks

Undrafted rookie George Fant gets chance to impress Seahawks on offensive line

Seattle Seahawks undrafted rookie George Fant was a four-year basketball player at Western Kentucky. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
Seattle Seahawks undrafted rookie George Fant was a four-year basketball player at Western Kentucky. (Elaine Thompson / Associated Press)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

RENTON, Wash. – For a couple of series during Friday’s Seahawks practice, undrafted rookie George Fant worked as the starting left tackle, part of an offensive-line shuffle that had veteran J’Marcus Webb demoted for the day to the second team.

It was the culmination of years of preparation for Fant to finally get to the point where he was sharing an NFL huddle with a star such as quarterback Russell Wilson.

Wait, check that.

How often has Fant played in a game as an offensive tackle at any level?

“Never,’’ Fant said. “Never. Never had one in my life.’’

Fant, instead, was a basketball player from eighth grade through four years at Western Kentucky University, where he finished his career as the 13th-leading scorer in school history before deciding to try football as a fifth-year senior.

He played a few snaps for the Hilltoppers in 2015 as a tight end and on special teams but otherwise spent the season learning the game and building his body for football instead of basketball.

Signed in May as a project – the Seahawks weren’t sure if he’d play tight end or offensive line – Fant has been one of the pleasant surprises of training camp, consistently working at left tackle behind projected starter Garry Gilliam.

On Friday, though, when the Seahawks decided to shake things up on the offensive line, Fant worked for a while as the starting left tackle.

Fant said he didn’t know he’d get the shot to work with the starting unit until shortly before practice Friday and said he was told offensive-line coach Tom Cable “wanted to look around” at other offensive linemen.

“I didn’t really know what was going on, but I’m not going to turn down a situation like this,” he said.

It’s too early to say Fant has a spot on the team’s 53-man opening-day roster. But the fact that he got reps with the starters indicates how impressed the team has been with him and indicated that the starting five – which had been the same since organized team activities – remains subject to change.

Not only did Fant get work at left tackle with Gilliam shifting to right, but rookie Rees Odhiambo, who has been playing left guard, got a few snaps at right tackle. Second-year player Terry Poole, who has been the backup right tackle, got some work with the starters at that spot, with Webb consistently working with the second unit.

Webb, who started primarily at guard last season for the Oakland Raiders, is the Seahawks’ highest-paid offensive lineman. He signed a two-year contract worth

$5.75 million, $2.45 million guaranteed.

Fant would earn the minimum $450,000 if he makes the team.

It’s possible the Seahawks were sending a message to Webb, who missed most of the offseason program because of a calf injury. Cable said this week that Webb “looks like he didn’t do hardly anything in the spring.”

But the Seahawks are unquestionably high on Fant, despite the fact that until a few months ago he had not played offensive line at any level.

“He’s doing a great job to be handling what he’s handling with no background,” coach Pete Carroll said this week. “He’s a very interesting kid, and he’s working hard at it. Nice athlete.”

Fant was 6-foot-5 and 250 pounds as a basketball player at Western Kentucky. He had hoped to pursue a pro career before being talked into the idea that he might have a better shot at making it in the NFL.

“It took a lot of people to convince me,’’ he said, saying he finally agreed that he might be undersized to play forward in pro basketball but might be “perfect for football.”

Lifting weights for the first time in his life, he said he bulked up to 275 pounds within a two-week period last year.

He’s now at 307 and said he hasn’t lost any speed or quickness.

Certainly, he has shown he can fly up a depth chart. Now to see if he can stay there.

“They are treating me like I’m a regular rookie, like I’ve been playing football my whole life,’’ Fant said. “Early on, I’m sure there were some things like, ‘He’s still learning.’ But now I know those things, they expect me to know it and come on the field and do it, and I expect those things, as well.’’

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