New Seattle Seahawks rookies Texas safety Earl Thomas and Oklahoma State offensive tackle Russell Okung’s first meeting on the football field was a memorable experience.
“When we played each other, I ran into him when I tried to blitz out there and he caught me under my shoulder pads,” Thomas said. “And he’s way bigger than me, and we talked. And I told him, ‘Please don’t throw me on the ground.’ And he didn’t do it. So that’s how we first met.
“I’m glad he’s on my team now.”
And why didn’t Okung throw him on the ground?
“I don’t know why I didn’t do it,” Okung said. “I kind of regret not doing it. I should have went ahead and did it. Good thing we’re on the same team now.”
And so it went in Thomas and Okung's first introduction to the local media.
Thomas said he chose No. 29 because his number in college, the No. 12, is retired in honor of the 12th man.
Thomas said he had 29 his freshman year before he switched to No. 12 his sophomore year. However, Thomas might be switching again with N.Y. Jets running back Leon Washington on the team. Washington wore No. 29 for the Jets.
Okung will wear No. 76, the old number of Steve Hutchinson.
Both said they are not concerned with the possible pressure of being a top-15 pick in the draft.
“This is an opportunity,” Okung said. “I say it’s good to have pressure. You want a chip on your shoulder, a big monkey on your back. But you’ve got to carry the load, and I’m fine with that.”
Added Thomas: “I’m not really feeling any pressure. I love this game, and I’m just here to play ball. And once I learn the defense I should be able to play fast, and everything else is going to take care of itself.”
Okung said his strength is his passion for the game.
“I love the game, whether I’m run blocking or pass blocking,” Okung said. “It might not look pretty and it may look ugly, but I’m just a guy who gets it done. I’m the type of person who you can hold me accountable. If coach wants me to do something, I’m going to do whatever it takes to adapt.”
Okung came into college at Oklahoma State as a freshman at 245. He was not highly recruited out of high school, and to be successful on the football field he understood the importance of gaining more weight and strength.
“All it was, was hard work and perseverance,” Okung said. “I was determined to get up in my weight. I knew I couldn’t be out there playing a whole bunch of good guys at 250.”
“I was more of a lower-tier prospect,” Okung went on. “But if it was up to what everybody said I don’t think I’d be here right now.”
As far as role models on the field, Thomas didn't have a specific player he looked up to, and said he's just looking forward to playing football and working hard to be the best he can be.
However, Okung had a few names, including Walter Jones, Jonatan Ogden, Orlando pace and "the great Conrad Dobler."