RENTON, Wash. – New Seattle wide receiver Gary Jennings already has a connection with the quarterback he’s about to start catching passes from.
He was once coached on a YMCA youth basketball team by Russell Wilson in Richmond, Virginia.
“I don’t know if it was that competitive. We couldn’t even press, I don’t think,” Jennings said. “It was cool because he was a star player at the school, and he had a chance to be able to coach.”
Jennings was the first of Seattle’s picks on the final day of the NFL draft on Saturday. He was selected No. 120 overall in the fourth round, the first of three fourth-round selections by the Seahawks. Seattle also selected Wake Forest guard Phil Haynes and Oregon cornerback Ugo Amadi.
Seattle added Washington linebacker Ben Burr-Kirven early in the fifth round, the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year last season, and selected Miami running back Travis Homer and Florida State defensive tackle Demarcus Christmas in the sixth round. That appeared to be it for the Seahawks, before they traded back into the seventh round to select Hawaii wide receiver John Ursua.
Seattle started the week with four picks, and after seven trades made 11 selections.
“We really surpassed my expectations that we could be like we are. We’re thrilled with what happened,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “All of the work that was done to get it done put us in a whole different framework. It’s going to be competitive, which is exactly how we like it.”
But it was Jennings and his connection with Wilson that grabbed the attention. Jennings attended The Collegiate School in Richmond through eighth grade, the same school as Wilson and his sister, Anna. It was Anna’s team that Jennings played on and was coached by the Seahawks QB and his father.
Jennings guessed he was in fourth grade, perhaps a little younger, when he was coached by Wilson. He remembered Wilson, who was in high school, already being a star quarterback.
“Growing up in that school, I used to see him play quarterback. He was an amazing quarterback back in the day, too,” Jennings said. “I saw him run back and forth across the field and someone was always wide open. They won state basically every year he was there.”
Wilson tweeted later Saturday about being reunited with Jennings, who may end up being a potential slot receiver target for the QB.
Seattle clearly has concerns about whether Doug Baldwin will play again after multiple injuries and offseason surgeries brought retirement into the picture. General manager John Schneider said he expects a resolution on Baldwin’s future in the next few weeks.
While Baldwin has been highly successful on the outside, he was most effective working out of the slot. That’s where Jennings could fit, at least initially. Jennings played nearly 81 percent of his snaps last season at West Virginia in the slot, where he finished with 54 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Carroll and Schneider said they expect Jennings to play both inside and outside.
“It was a feeling like no other. For it to be Seattle as well, it’s a perfect fit for me. For the system and what they do as an offense,” Jennings said.
All of Seattle’s picks on the final day seemed to fit a need. Haynes is a mauling guard who primarily is a run blocker and fits the mold of what Seattle has at the position with D.J. Fluker and Mike Iupati, and had last year with J.R. Sweezy. Amadi could project as Seattle’s next nickel cornerback after splitting time between cornerback and safety at Oregon. Finding another option as a third cornerback was a priority after losing Justin Coleman in free agency.
Carroll said they intend to start Amadi at free safety while also seeing how he does as a cornerback covering in the slot.
“You have to be able to play with leverage at nickel. Because the receiver has the two-way going in the middle of the field most of the time, so you have to learn how to use your help,” Amadi said. “That’s probably what helped my game to another level, because I understand leverage, I understood what the offense wants to do.”
Burr-Kirven expects to contribute immediately on special teams after making the short drive across Lake Washington. He led the nation in tackles as a senior with 176.
Homer is a developmental running back who adds depth for an offense that has made no secret in wanting to run the ball. Selecting Christmas addressed the one lingering vacancy in Seattle’s draft, needing additional options on the interior defensive line.
Seattle moved back into the seventh round to get Ursua, who led the country in touchdown receptions with 16 last season, out of fear it wouldn’t be able to sign him as a rookie free agent.
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