Darren Fells said today is the one-year anniversary of his decision to give up pro basketball in Europe and pursue his dream of making the NFL.
And the 6-7, 281-pound tight end will take the field for the first time in an NFL game tonight when Seattle faces Denver in the team’s home exhibition opener.
Fells, 27, has been slowed by a lingering hamstring injury, but finally returned to practice this week, and should see some action when the backups play after the first-unit offense.
“Coaches were telling me that I was making great improvement, and coming along from an ex-basketball player to a football player,” Fells said. “So I just want to try and not take a step back, and get into my groove.”
Fells played college basketball at the University of California, Irvine. He did not play football in college, but Fells was an all-state tight end at Fullerton High School in Fullerton, Calif.
“It’s a learning process,” Fells said about the transition from basketball to football. “There are some similarities. In basketball, you need to work on footwork to become a skilled player. Obviously, I had to put on a little weight from my basketball days, so that transition is still taking place in learning the offense, along with learning the techniques of the game.”
One of the things that’s noticeable for Fells is he does not shy away from contact, which is somewhat unusual for a former basketball player. So he’s been better than expected as a blocker in the run game.
“That’s the No. 1 reason I changed to football, because I love that physical part,” Fells said.
But something Fells needs to work on is route concepts -- running polished routes, anticipating where the window is going to open up in a zone and creating separation in the pass game.
“Consistency,” Fells said, when asked what he needs to improve on. “Show them that I’m willing to learn, and make steps to get better every time.”
Fells said he’s been talking regularly with older brother Daniel Fells, a tight end for the New England Patriots.
“We talk as much as possible,” he said. “With the training camp time it’s very difficult. But I’ve been talking with him, and he’s been giving me encouragement. And I try and pick his brain with everything I can.
“He’s been in the league eight years. So he knows a lot, and I can learn a lot from him.”