Sefo Liufau belongs in a Seahawks uniform.
I believe this not just because Liufau, who starred at Bellarmine Prep before setting career passing records the University of Colorado, is a local product.
During the league’s infancy, before national television revenues replaced box office sales as a primary source of income, NFL owners typically acquired homegrown players as household names capable of boosting attendance. That hasn’t been the case for years.
On the other hand, the fact Liufau established himself in the area shouldn’t be held against him. Had the Mariners drafted Jon Lester and Tim Lincecum as candidates in a fantasyland rotation with Felix Hernandez, their playoff drought isn’t 16 years and counting.
Liufau belongs in a Seahawks uniform because he fits a need: A tough, strong backup to Russell Wilson who, unlike Wilson’s last two backups, can be trusted to behave off the field as he develops on it.
At 6 feet 4 and 230 pounds, Liufau fits the prototype of a pro quarterback. He’s not fully polished as a passer, but that’s to the Seahawks advantage — it’s almost certain he’ll be available Saturday, when the draft concludes with rounds four through seven.
Last year’s final-day haul brought the Hawks offensive lineman Rees Odhiambo, defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson, running back Alex Collins and center Joey Hunt. Would you exchange any of those guys for a serviceable substitute QB?
I would, but that’s John Schneider’s call, not mine. Since joining the Seahawks in 2010, Schneider has presided over six draft classes entailing 66 players. Of those 66, the only quarterback he’s selected is Wilson, a 2012 third-rounder.
Wilson’s talent and durability have rendered his backups to be as close to invisible as anybody on a roster can get. Second-team quarterbacks don’t participate on special teams. Second-team quarterbacks wait to be summoned for an emergency, and in Seattle, the emergencies have been minimal.
But as we saw in 2016, Wilson isn’t an indestructible freak of nature. The assurance of an able, eager-to-compete backup to him can’t be an afterthought.
While discussing the draft with reporters the other day, Schneider was asked if thought it unusual that Wilson remains the lone quarterback he’s selected.
“It has just happened that way,” Schneider said. “I don’t know how to explain it. It’s just the way it’s staked out for us.”
“That’s a great question,” continued Schneider, his train of thought picking up momentum. “Because you’re kind of like, ‘Yeah, you’re right, we haven’t (drafted quarterbacks). That’s something that you want to try to do, because it’s the most important position on the field.”
Liufau won’t be fazed if he’s suddenly occupying the most important position on the field. His exemplary work ethic at Colorado was the most significant reason the Buffaloes vaulted from Pac-12 punching bags — 2-25 in league play over his first three seasons — to 2016 conference title game contestants.
As the defeats mounted with Liufau’s injuries, many Buffs fans clamored for a Plan B at quarterback. It seemed imminent when Texas Tech’s Davis Webb announced he was transferring to Colorado.
But Liufau held on to the starting job, Webb’s cue to flip his CU commitment for California.
“Watching him handle all of that through the process and never let it waver, keep going on as a person and keep taking himself out there every Saturday, has been really, really special,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said last season.
Draft scouts apply arcane pluses and minuses to college prospects. Vertical jumps, arm length, hand-eye coordination: they’re all measured, enticing teams to be intrigued by the kind of football-lab components that turned former Hawks linebacker Aaron Curry into the No. 4 overall selection of the 2009 draft.
Curry was blessed with quantifiable physical skills that masked what soon became obvious. He wasn’t a very good football player.
A better assessment of a draft prospect’s potential is how his college peers regarded him.
Here is how Colorado wide receiver Devin Ross has described Liufau:
“He’s just an amazing guy overall. You want to be around him and you want to make plays for him and be a teammate for him. Just the ideal person to play for, to have his back all of the time.”
When the Hawks resume their draft Saturday morning, Liufau will be available as a late-round option capable of playing the most important position on the field.
Not holding my breath, just keeping my fingers crossed.
John McGrath: @TNTMcGrath