RENTON - Their names were not called on draft day, but a spot on an NFL roster remains the goal for Kavario Middleton and Renard Williams.
Both were top-notch football players in the state in high school – Middleton a dynamic, pass-catching tight end for Lakes and Williams a dominant, run-stuffing defensive tackle at South Kitsap.
A Parade All-American and ranked as the No. 2 tight end in high school, Middleton saw his college career take a detour when the University of Washington dismissed him after his sophomore season for team rules violations, which reportedly included a failed drug test.
But Middleton landed on his feet at the University of Montana, where he played two seasons for the Grizzlies, helping them reach the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoff semifinals as a senior.
“It was a humbling, humbling development for me,” Middleton said. “But it was fun. I met some cool people over there.
“Being a local city kid from out here, and going out there, it was quite the transition for me. But it helps you grow up quickly and learn from your mistakes.”
Middleton got an invitation to Seattle’s rookie minicamp when tight end Shawn Nelson suffered an injury. And he made the best of it, showing sure hands as a red-zone target. But the 6-foot-5, 253-pound tight end said he has a lot to improve if he wants to stick on an NFL roster, including his conditioning and strength.
“Everything,” Middleton said. “There’s so much – I could give you a whole list because there’s so much for me to work on. Just being out here these last couple days and learning how precise everything is and learning how accurate you need to be with your route running and recognition of defenses, it’s a lot of stuff.”
Williams joined Seattle’s rookie minicamp after a tryout with Tampa Bay. He was an effective, pass-rushing defensive tackle at Eastern Washington, where he helped lead the Eagles to the FCS title his junior season, totaling 54 tackles, 61/2 sacks and a school-record four forced fumbles.
But at 6-1 and 302 pounds, Williams is built much like Brandon Mebane, so Seattle used him as a run-stuffing nose tackle in camp. Williams got plenty of reps over the weekend, and now will have to wait and see if he gets the call back before looking for opportunities with other teams.
Williams worked with the first unit among rookies most of the time, and was being coached hard by defensive line coach Todd Wash – a good sign because it means the coaching staff sees some potential.
“It was excellent,” Williams said of his experience. “The offensive line did their job, and we kind of got after them, and they got after us. So I would say it was pretty even.
“We’re all out here trying to get a shot on the team. So you’re just tying to showcase what you bring to the table, and hopefully the coaches see that.”
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll recognized the long odds for players such as Middleton and Williams making a Week 1 roster.
“This is a first step for a lot of those guys, and for some of these guys it’ll be their only step,” he said. “So we try and treat these days with them with a lot of respect for where their hearts are and all that.”
KEARSE STAYS HOME
UW product and Lakes graduate Jermaine Kearse said he had at least eight organizations, including Jacksonville and San Diego, interested in signing him as an undrafted rookie free agent.
But ultimately he decided his best chance to make an NFL roster was in Seattle.
“I chose here for, one, because it’s a great organization that has great coaches and great players,” Kearse said. “And two, I felt like it was a good situation for me to come in and just makes plays and do my job.”
Kearse sees players such as undrafted rookie free agents Doug Baldwin and Ricardo Lockette making Seattle’s roster last season as validation for his decision.
“Definitely,” Kearse said. “Coach Carroll is going to play the best man, whether it’s a guy who’s just trying out or a free agent who’s undrafted. He’s going to play the guy who’s going to compete the most and make the plays.”
Receivers coach Kippy Brown is familiar with Kearse’s skills, having worked him out at the University of Washington’s pro day, and also getting another look at Kearse when the Seahawks hosted a local pro day at the team’s practice facility in early April.
Brown said the fact that Washington coach Steve Sarkisian runs a similar offense has helped in the transition for Kearse.
“So far, he’s had a really good camp,” Brown said. “He’s a smart guy. He knows what to do and doesn’t make many mistakes. He does have good speed, and he has a good knowledge of the game. He knows how to get open.
“I like his quickness. He’s got good, strong hands. And he’s going to help us.”
Carroll said veteran offensive tackle Alex Barron showed enough to be considered as a possible addition to Seattle’s 90-man roster. “He did a nice job,” Carroll said. “He’s more experienced. He’s been around the block, and you could tell that. He did enough good things that we could see that he could have a chance.” … The Seahawks also confirmed that the team’s last two unsigned draft picks, fourth-round selections Robert Turbin and Jaye Howard, signed four-year deals over the weekend.eric.williams@ thenewstribune.com 253-597-8437 blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams