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It's a small world
Kris Durham had been a member of the Seahawks for all of 10 minutes. But the wide receiver from Georgia already had made a connection with Charlie Whitehurst.
Durham, the second of the Seahawks’ two picks in the fourth round of the NFL Draft last month, was nearing the end of his post-selection telephone interview with reporters who cover the team. When asked what aspects of his game he wanted to work on in his continuing development, Durham offered an unexpected response.
“I’ve been training with Charlie down here in Georgia,” he said of Whitehurst, currently the only QB under contract with the Seahawks. “I’ve been able to work with him a little bit, and now that I’m going to be a Seahawk with him, we’re definitely going to get together.”
It was a revelation that slipped through the cracks on a very busy third day of the draft for the Seahawks – when they selected seven prospects in the final four rounds and also held an introductory news conference with first-round pick James Carpenter, a tackle from Alabama.
But the Whitehurst-to-Durham connection definitely is worth revisiting.
Whitehurst was born in Green Bay, when his father, David, was playing for the Packers. But he grew up in the Atlanta area and went to Clemson. He spends time there in the offseason. But even coach Pete Carroll admitted, “I didn’t connect that.”
There is, however, another connection that helped Durham hook up with Whitehurst.
“His hometown, where he went to high school, is right down the street from where my sister lives – which is where I’ve been staying so that I can train,” Durham said of Alpharetta, which is a 30-minute drive from Atlanta.
Talk about your small worlds – not to mention six degrees of separation.
“It was actually kind of funny,” Durham said when asked how he was introduced to Whitehurst. “I’ve been training with the same guy throughout college. One of his friends went to high school with John Busing.”
Busing, who’s also from Alpharetta and was an all-conference safety at Miami of Ohio, has played in the NFL with the Cincinnati Bengals, Houston Texans and New York Giants.
“He kind of got Charlie to start working out with us,” Durham said. “That’s how I got introduced to him. Fortunately, it’s a blessing.”
Durham was not invited to the NFL scouting combine in February, so his Pro Day workout in March was huge for Durham – a 6-foot-5, 216-pounder. Whitehurst was there to help with his preparation.
“He actually started training with me right before the Pro Day,” Durham said. “I’ve only been able to throw the ball with him twice, but I’ve been working out with him a total of about six times.”
Durham’s take on Whitehurst, who was acquired last year in a trade with the San Diego Chargers?
“He’s an amazing quarterback,” said Durham, who was roommates with Matthew Stafford at Georgia and remains friends with the quarterback who was the first pick overall in the 2009 draft by the Detroit Lions.
“I actually see a lot of similarities in those two, with the velocity of the ball and the way they just work,” Durham said. “They understand offenses; understand defenses. All of that kind of correlates.
“I’m just excited to get out there with him.”
Excited is not exactly the word pundits used after the Seahawks made Durham the 107th pick in the draft – and first player not invited to the combine to be selected. But he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and had a 35-inch vertical jump at his Pro Day workout.
On the field, he led Georgia in receiving five times last season, including a four-catch, 112-yard outing against Vanderbilt. He also had a 101-yard effort (on five receptions) against Arkansas. The Arkansas game was during the four-game suspension of A.J. Green, Georgia’s leading receiver who was the fourth pick overall in last month’s draft by the Bengals.
Playing in the shadow of Green can make it easy to overlook the team’s “other” receiver – even one who is 6-5 and averaged 20.6 yards on 32 receptions last season.
“Kris Durham was kind of an underrated guy, in our opinion,” general manager John Schneider said. “He’s a guy that can take the ball out of the air and does a real nice job of running routes.”
And Carroll likes big receivers, as evidenced by the way he used Mike Williams when they were together at USC and again last season after the Seahawks signed Williams.
“There were different receivers on the board,” Carroll said. “We like Kris because he is 6-5. We wanted another big guy to give us the effect that Mike gives us out there, and to not lose that in case Mike’s not available.”
Which happened three times last season. In those games when Williams was injured, the Seahawks lost to the Oakland Raiders, Kansas City Chiefs and San Francisco 49ers – while averaging 176 passing yards.
“We saw (Kris) in a very special way,” Carroll said.
And what will Seahawks fan see from Durham this season? Think a faster Joe Jurevicius, who became the favorite red-zone target while leading the 2005 team with 10 touchdown receptions. Think someone who is quicker in and out of his routes than Deon Butler, the Seahawks’ third-round pick in 2009 who finished second on the team to Williams with 36 catches last season. Also think a bigger, more-athletic Waldo, because Durham could move around in the offense being installed by new coordinator Darrell Bevell – just as he did at Georgia.
“I did a little bit of everything,” Durham said when asked how he was used in college. “I lined up in the slot. I lined up outside. I lined up a little at every position just because I was able to learn the offense really well and learn how everything correlates together, and so they just used me in a variety of manners.”
As Green told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution after Durham’s Pro Day workout, “Kris can catch everything, and I like the way he runs routes.”
But then Charlie Whitehurst already knows that.