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Seattle Seahawks

Seahawks introduce Byron Murphy II, the rookie they didn’t think they’d get

Texas defensive tackle Byron Murphy II, (center) from DeSoto, embraces his father Byron Sr., (left) and his mother, Seneca, after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks with the No. 16 overall pick on Thursday in Dallas  (Tribune News Service)
By Bob Condotta Seattle Times

As the story goes, Byron Murphy II was 5 years old when he first played football.

A year or two later, beginning to sprout into the future NFL first-round pick he would become, Murphy was too big to play with kids his own age. So he had to move up in class and play against 9- and 10-year-olds.

Thursday, as he was officially introduced as one of the newest Seahawks in a news conference at the VMAC, the defensive lineman took a brief stroll down memory lane.

“I just remember really dominating,’’ he said to laughter. “Scoring three, four touchdowns a game. Man, it was crazy, you know, 7 years old going against 9- to 10-year-olds, just being able to do that. I knew I was special right away then.’’

As the years went on, he’d think if someday there would be days like last Thursday, when he got the call from the Seahawks, who took him with the 16th overall pick, and days like this Thursday, when he took part in one of the rituals of being a first-round draft choice, happily holding up his new jersey for pictures with family and team officials.

“A dream come true,’’ Murphy said.

Soon will come the reality of adjusting to life in the NFL, which, even for the most promising of rookies, throws a few curveballs.

Murphy and the rest of the Seahawks’ eight-man draft class will hit the field at the VMAC on Friday afternoon as the team holds its annual rookie minicamp.

Seahawks president of football operations John Schneider and new head coach Mike Macdonald professed no doubts that they got the right guy with their first pick.

Many draft experts thought Murphy might go in the top 10, and the Seahawks figured he might, too.

ESPN reported Thursday that the Seahawks thought he would go to the Bears at pick No. 9 if Rome Odunze was off the board, but the UW receiver was there for the Bears to draft.

As Schneider said on the night of the draft, they had Murphy rated as the top defensive player on the board.

His potential as an immediate impact player, at the age of 21, led to Schneider declining what he said were four offers to trade back. “Good ones, too,” he said. ESPN reported those offers came from Pittsburgh (which had the 20th pick), Philadelphia (22), Minnesota (23) and Atlanta (43).

“He was always a guy throughout the season that we were always watching. Like, ‘Are we in a position where we’ll be able to draft him or not?’” Schneider said. “Not having a second-round draft pick [which they traded to the Giants to acquire Leonard Williams] really inhibited our ability to move up to take him. So we basically just prayed on it and sweated it out the other night.’’

The Seahawks, who list Murphy at 6-foot, 306 pounds, envision him immediately becoming a key part of the interior defensive-line rotation along with veterans Williams, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones and Johnathan Hankins.

“A cool group,’’ Schneider said.

And one the Seahawks have invested in greatly to try to help Macdonald fulfill his quest of building a defense that is strong up the middle.

“I told some folks it was kind of like a game of Plinko on ‘Price is Right,’ just trying to have everything slot out to work our way,’’ Macdonald said. “And when it became evident Byron was going to be our guy, it was just really exciting in the room. … We think Byron is the right person for our team.’’

While Murphy grew up in the Dallas suburb of DeSoto, Texas, he said, “in my household, everybody disliked the Cowboys for some reason.’’

That left Murphy to pick his own favorite team. And at the impressionable age of 11, he watched the Seahawks blast the Broncos in the Super Bowl and found one.

“I just fell in love with the Legion of Boom, the guys, just the way they played on defense, guys like Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, all those guys, Richard Sherman, and just seeing how those guys play on defense, the way they just set the tone and go out there and just the way they play, that’s something I wanted to be a part of,’’ he said. “And also, too, growing up, I was a huge fan of Russell Wilson. … That’s one of my goals. I’m trying to win games and bring a Super Bowl here, as well.’’

At that time, Murphy thought he might be helping a team win a Super Bowl on the other side of the ball. His initial position was running back, which he played through ninth grade. He said his running style resembled that of another Seahawk — Marshawn Lynch.

“I was a very physical runner,’’ he said. “I run through people, or I give you a little shake and bake. I feel like I had it all at running back.’’

As he told the story Thursday, one day in practice he was asked to take a snap at nose tackle, and he responded by plowing through the offensive line to make a tackle for a loss.

The next day, a coach asked if he was willing to switch to the line permanently. After hesitating — even though he weighed 250, he wondered if he was suited to play inside — he said yes.

“When I told my parents, my parents went off on me,’’ he said. “They were mad and everything. But I was telling them, ‘It’s going to be OK. I’m going to do good at that position.’’’

Certainly, no one was complaining Thursday.

Murphy began his news conference thanking his mom, Seneca, and dad, who were each in attendance along with his girlfriend, Maya Hurd, who he referred to as his future wife. Also with the group was his agent, Ron Slavin, there to oversee Murphy ironing out any remaining details on his contract, which is slotted as a four-year deal worth just over $16 million with an $8.5 million signing bonus.

“Growing up, Seattle has been my favorite team, so just to be a part of this team and this organization, it really means a lot,’’ he said. “I’m going to give everything I’ve got each and every day, 110%.”