By John Boyle Herald Columnist
RENTON — After the Seattle Seahawks used their first pick in the 2014 draft on Paul Richardson, they weren’t necessarily looking to double up at receiver.
But then Kevin Norwood was still sitting there as the fourth-round went along, so the Seahawks took a second receiver in their first four picks, not so much because they saw a big need there, but because they saw a player on whom they couldn’t pass.
“He was by himself up there,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said, referring to Norwood’s place on Seattle’s draft board at the time he was taken with the 23rd pick in the fourth round. “We had taken Paul already and didn’t necessarily anticipate another receiver being there.”
But there Norwood was, the Alabama product who lacked gaudy numbers in college, but had the measurables (6-feet, 2-inches tall, 198 pounds, 4.48-second 40-yard dash time) as well as the intangibles that made the Seahawks more than happy to create a little redundancy in their draft class.
“The fact that Kevin Norwood was there was probably the guy that we thought we were most fortunate to still have a shot at,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
And now, with Seattle holding a three-day rookie minicamp this weekend, we’re starting to get the first glance at what the Seahawks like so much about Norwood.
Yes, Richardson has the wow factor thanks to his blazing speed. But with the second-round pick sidelined Saturday as a precaution following a collision on the last play of Friday’s practice, it was Norwood who stood out Saturday, hauling in catch after catch while looking very much like a player capable of becoming the draft-weekend steal Carroll and Schneider were so excited about a week earlier.
In addition to possessing an intriguing combination of size, speed and good hands, Norwood also built a reputation at Alabama for being a clutch receiver, which is part of the reason former Crimson Tide quarterback A.J. McCarron called Norwood, “the most underrated player in this whole draft,” in an interview with NFL.com
For Norwood, being “Mr. Clutch” as he refers to himself in his twitter handle (MrClutch_83) isn’t so much about something special he does on game day, but rather the work he does leading up to it. He has yet to borrow the Russell Wilson favorite, “the separation is in the preparation,” but Norwood does sound a bit like his new quarterback when discussing how he got his reputation.
“That comes from hard work and preparation day in and day out,” Norwood said. “I focus on what I have to do to make the team better. I just go in and pay attention to details and do the little things right, which makes me a better player if I look into all of the little things, all of the little small details. Make sure I get lined up right, be where I’m supposed to be for the quarterback and stuff like that. That’s pretty much where that came from.”
Now, before we go further, a couple of caveats are probably in order.
For starters, it’s worth remembering that the majority of the players on hand at rookie minicamp aren’t going to play for the Seahawks or any NFL team this season or ever, so looking good this weekend is not the same as being ready for stardom. Catching passes against a tryout player is one thing; doing it against Richard Sherman in training camp will be something else. And secondly, with contact very limited, receivers, along with defensive backs and quarterbacks, tend to stand out the most. So the fact that a receiver made an early impression is hardly a revelation (If you’ll recall, Golden Tate was the star of training camp in 2010 and was a non-factor for much of his rookie season).
Even so, it’s hard not to wonder how Norwood lasted as long as he did in the draft when you watch him shine on the practice field, then also factor in his reputation as a big-game performer, as well as just about everything about him off the field.
Norwood didn’t just win three national titles at Alabama, he also earned his master’s degree in sports management as a fifth-year senior. And before he could add those accomplishments to his résumé, Norwood had to overcome far more adversity than any teenager should.
As was detailed in an NFL.com story, his estranged father died when Norwood was 10. When he was 15, Norwood had to help provide for his family after Hurricane Katrina sent a tree through the roof of his mother’s Gulfport, Mississippi home. And if surviving one of the worst hurricanes in U.S. history wasn’t bad enough, Norwood also lived through the 2011 tornado outbreak that affected, among many areas, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.
“Hurricane Katrina came through; April 27, tornado in Tuscaloosa came through, and then another tornado came through about a month or so ago,” Norwood said after the draft. “It was like all the things coming at me in different angles and different ways, and trying to figure out what I should do next. Should I keep going, or is God telling me something? In the end, I persevered through it all. I came through, and now look at me, it’s a dream come true.”
That dream is still at the very beginning for Norwood and the rest of Seattle’s rookies, but so far it’s certainly been an encouraging start for a player the Seahawks felt fortunate to land with a fourth-round pick.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.