Diminutive Forsett seen as asset in new scheme

RENTON — Think Justin Forsett is stressed about being third on the depth chart during Seahawks training camp?

Hardly.

The fact that he’s in an NFL uniform at all shows just how good the second-year running back is at beating the odds.

Despite putting up gaudy numbers as a high schooler at Grace Prep Academy in Arlington, Texas, the best offer Forsett had to play running back in his home state was a chance to walk-on a Division-II school. Texas, Texas A&M, Texas Tech? Not interested.

“I went to camps at all those schools, and they said I was too small,” said the 5-foot-8 back. “They said maybe I could be a defensive player and walk on. No schools in Texas offered me a scholarship. I remember a small school, Abilene Christian, they wanted me to walk on.

“It’s a blessing though. I don’t regret anything that happened. That trial built me into what I am.”

At California — when Texas schools weren’t interested, Forsett sent tapes to school on the west coast and the Bears took notice — Forsett continued to put up big numbers, but 5-8 was still 5-8, so he wasn’t drafted until the seventh round last year.

Yet here Forsett is, still undersized but in his second training camp. With Maurice Morris gone to Detroit, Forsett is all but assured of a roster spot, and he may be more than just a third-stringer who helps on special teams. Throughout the first few days of camp, coaches have raved about Forsett’s improvement, and the new zone-blocking scheme installed by offensive coordinator Greg Knapp seems to suit the second-year back.

“He’s bigger, stronger and faster than when he came out of college, and then this scheme fits Justin,” said Seahawks coach Jim Mora. “You watch him, and he’s got a real good initial burst. He’s able to put his foot in the ground and change directions quickly, and that’s what you want in the zone scheme.”

Forsett, who returned punts for the Seahawks last season, averaging 9.9 yards per return, figures his size could even be an advantage in the new offense.

“When I’ve got these big guys out in front of me, it’s kind of an advantage when I’m back there standing at 5-8 and the defense can barely see me when I make my cut,” he said. “So it’s a good scheme for me.”

And even at 5-8, 194-pounds, Forsett is hardly a pushover. During Saturday night’s practice, the first one in pads, he got everyone’s attention by lighting up linebacker David Hawthorne in a blitz pickup drill. He drove the 240-pound linebacker back far enough to knock over Knapp as well.

“From the time he came in last year, he’s made plays,” said fellow running back T.J. Duckett. “The little guy, he can go. He’s tough.”

A role as a featured back isn’t in Forsett’s immediate future, but that doesn’t stop him from dreaming. And when an in-state Division-II scholarship isn’t offering a scholarship, and you still end up in the NFL, there’s no reason to stop dreaming.

“I know I can play with anybody, but other people have looked at it differently because of my size,” he said. “I try to go out there and just work hard and get better each and every day, and I know with a lot of work I can be up there with the best … It’s just opportunity. When I get an opportunity I have to seize it. I can’t mess up when they give me an opportunity.”

Herald Writer John Boyle: jboyle@heraldnet.com. For more Seahawks coverage, check out the Seahawks blog at heraldnet.com/seahawksblog

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