By Eric D. Williams The News Tribune
RENTON — At 6-1 and 234 pounds, Chris Harper is a physical receiver who packs a punch.
And that’s something Seattle Seahawks receivers coach Kippy Brown is looking forward to watching on Sundays.
“I love his size and strength,” Brown said. “Big guys with athletic ability are hard to cover. And he’s certainly that.”
A converted quarterback who has played receiver for three seasons, Harper relied on his size and athletic ability at Kansas State, finishing with 58 catches for 857 yards and three touchdowns his final season for the Wildcats.
“It helps me a lot,” Harper said. “DB’s are not used to seeing guys at 230 (pounds) playing receiver. There’s not too many guys in the league that are that big. So it gives me an advantage, as far as at the point of attack when the ball’s in the air, giving them an extra nudge. When they want to get into pushing matches, I usually come out on top.”
Now Harper, Seattle’s fourth-round pick in this year’s draft, is working on the other part — learning the playbook so route combinations and route adjustments become second nature.
Harper said the transition has been eased by his experience in the Senior Bowl, working with Oakland’s offensive coaching staff. The Raiders run a West Coast-style of offense similar to Seattle.
Harper also has leaned on second-year pro Phil Bates, who spent most of the season on Seattle’s practice squad last season, and is participating in this weekend’s minicamp.
“It’s hard when you’re thinking about doing so much,” Harper said. “This is my first time out here being in this system. So just actually knowing it, and learning the schemes where you don’t have to think about it, but just go out there and do it.”
The Seahawks are stacked at receiver, with Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin. So Harper’s first chance to contribute likely will be on special teams.
But Brown says he’s willing to be patient.
“He’s coming,” Brown said. “He’s learning. This is a whole new deal for him, especially learning the offense. There’s a lot of thinking going on. So he practiced faster today than he did yesterday. … It’s just a learning deal. When he gets it, it’s no different than anybody else we’ve had. He’ll speed up. But athletically, he’s what we thought he was.”
So far, Seattle head coach Pete Carroll has liked what he’s seen from Harper.
“He caught the ball beautifully,” Carroll said. “He really has great hands. That’s what we had seen.”
Slowed during his senior season at the University of Idaho because of a turf toe issue, receiver Justin Veltung didn’t garner much attention by NFL scouts leading up to this year’s draft.
In eight games, Veltung finished with just 16 catches for 166 yards for the Vandals.
The result was an invitation from the Seattle Seahawks to participate in the team’s rookie minicamp as a tryout player after turning some heads at the Seattle’s local pro day in April.
And so far, the Puyallup High School graduate has made the most of his opportunity, making several nice grabs for big gains in the first two days of camp.
“He’s a smart guy,” Brown said. “He knows what to do. He doesn’t make very many mistakes, and so far he’s been real reliable catching the football. So we’ll see.”
Speed has never been an issue for the 5-10, 183-pound Veltung. He ran a 4.46-second, 40-yard time at his pro day.
Veltung also finished as Idaho’s all-time leader in kick return yards (1,743), so he adds some versatility with his ability to return punts and kicks.
“Obviously I’d like to get signed by the Hawks, and just become the best player I can, honestly,” Veltung said. “And if I don’t make it here, make it somewhere. But I’d love to make it here overall, with the hometown team.”