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One dynamic duo
And who could blame them. Wagner was the leading tackler for the Aggies, while Turbin was in the process of fashioning a 1,517-yard, 23-touchdown season. The NFL wasn’t just calling this productive duo, it was screaming.
“We talked for like an hour about what we were going to do when we got to the NFL,” Wagner recalled this week, cracking the slightest of smiles. “We didn’t know we’d end up here together. I just knew that no matter which team he went to I was going to root for him, and he was going to root for me.”
The Seahawks selected two players from the same school in the 2012 NFL Draft, but it wasn’t the first time the franchise has double-dipped. Far from it, as this chart indicates:
As it turned out, these two would end up sharing more than a first name and an alma mater. The Seahawks selected Wagner in the second round of the NFL Draft to compete for the starting middle linebacker spot that open when three-time leading tackler David Hawthorne signed with the New Orleans Saints in free agency. The club then added Turbin in the fourth round, to supply the physicality required in the running game on those occasions when leading-rusher Marshawn Lynch needs a breather or can’t play.
“We’ve talked about that, too; just how crazy it is that we ended up in the same spot,” Wagner said. “We’re going to try and put Utah State on the map.
“I don’t think we could have asked for it to turn out any better.”
It’s not that unusual for the Seahawks to double-dip in the draft. They’ve selected players from the same school in 13 other drafts, starting with their inaugural draft in 1976 when they selected pairs of players from four schools in the 17-round process. They also doubled up on the double-dips in 2009, 1992, 1988, 1981 and 1977 (see chart).
It is, however, something else to come out of one draft with two players from same school who are as good as Wagner and Turbin – and fill definite needs the way they do. The last duo to have an immediate, as well as lasting, impact came from Memphis State in 1978. Keith Simpson, the first-round pick, would start for four seasons at safety and then cornerback. Keith Butler, the second-round pick, would start for nine seasons and become the franchise’s all-time leading tackler by the time he left after the 1987 season. Twenty-four seasons later, he still ranks No. 2 behind Eugene Robinson.
“Bobby and Robert were both players that we identified as players that can help the Seahawks,” director of college scouting Scott Fitterer said. “They were very productive players in college, and then they fit our scheme. We liked them as athletes and all the physical traits about them. But when we put them through the filter, they fit what we do – from a physical standpoint and a character standpoint.”
So far, that fit as been better than good.
Wagner is working exclusively with the No. 1 defense, in part because free-agent addition Barrett Rudd remains sidelined while recovering from injuries that cut his season short with the Tennessee Titans last year. Turbin is displaying the power and versatility needed to spell Lynch, and also possibly work into the third-down role that since-departed Justin Forsett filled last season.
This should not come as a surprise to anyone. For starters, there’s the productivity: 147, 133 and 115 tackles the past three seasons for Wagner; 2,813 rushing yards and 41 touchdowns the past two seasons for Turbin.
But even connecting the dots between those stunning numbers doesn’t quite complete the picture. You have to sit down with them, which the Seahawks did with Turbin at the NFL Scouting Combine in February and then with Wagner when he visited Virginia Mason Athletic Center in April.
“When Turbin left the room after our interview, we walked out, looked at each other and said, ‘Wow, that is an impressive person,’ ” Fitterer said. “Not just a football player, but a person. Both these guys have overcome so much in their lives that it forced them to grow up and figure out who they are.
“Their character is so strong. These are the types of players we’re looking for. We like these guys with a little chip on their shoulders.”
Wagner was ill and did not attend the Combine, so the Seahawks had to delay interviewing him. The wait, as it turned out, was more than worth it.
“He met with our coaching staff,” Fitterer said. “Bobby leaves the room and our coaching staff looks at us and says, ‘Wow, this is a really impressive person. He knows what he’s talking about. We like everything about him.’ ”
Those visits helped push Wagner and Turbin up the Seahawks’ draft board, so the team did not hesitate to take Wagner with the 47th pick overall and then add Turbin with the 106th selection.
“Both guys are so impressive,” Fitterer said, “and we’re lucky to have them.”
The luck belongs to Wagner and Turbin, as they view the situation, because these friends get to continue being teammates.
“It’s an incredible feeling, obviously, to achieve your dream – a dream you’ve had since you were a child – and be able to come to a team with great coaches,” Turbin said. “Then there’s the comfort level that comes with being here with Bobby.
“We’re both rookies, so we’re both new and we both have a lot to learn. But there’s the comfort level there for us to be able to be together and do stuff together to make each other better, and help make this team better.”