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John Schneider on Christine Michael: ‘He’s our kind of runner’
Why would a team that already has All-Pro Marshawn Lynch and selected complementary back Robert Turbin in the fourth round of last year’s NFL Draft make another running back its top draft choice this year?
General manager John Schneider supplied the bottom-line answer after the Seahawks did just that by taking Texas A&M’s Christine Michael in the second round last Friday: “He was the top-rated player on our board.”
But the broader explanation is that the more the Seahawks saw of the 221-pound Michael – whose first name is pronounced kristin – the more they liked him.
He posted the top marks among the running backs at the NFL Scouting Combine in the vertical leap (43 inches) and cone (6.69 seconds) and shuttle (4.02 seconds) drills. He was second in the broad jump (10 feet, 5 inches) and third in the bench press (27 reps with 225 pounds). His time of 4.43 second in the 40-yard dash ranked ninth, but only one of the eight faster backs weighed more than 210 pounds and his time was second-best among the backs the Seahawks would have considered with what ended up being the 62nd pick overall.
Cue the video of him at A&M and Michael displays the ability to not only run through defenders but away from them. During his pre-draft visit to Virginia Mason Athletic Center, Michael took a liking to the Seahawks, and vice versa.
“When we got to our spot and Michael was there, we were excited,” Sherman Smith said Wednesday. “There were other backs we liked, but some of them were gone and we also wanted a bigger guy.”
Smith, of course, is the Seahawks’ original running back – a quarterback at Miami of Ohio who was selected in the second round of the 1976 draft and given a baptismal by blowtorch as a running back at his first NFL training camp. Smith, who led the team in rushing from 1976-79 and again in 1982, now is in his fourth year of coaching the team’s running backs.
Another factor in the Seahawks’ decision to go with Michael: There is an open roster spot at the position because change-of-pace/kick returner back Leon Washington was released after the team acquired receiver/runner/returner Percy Harvin in a March trade with the Minnesota Vikings.
“You can never have too many,” said Smith, pointing to the way the San Francisco 49ers and New Orleans Saints have used multiple backs by choice, necessity or both. “Leon did a great job. With the size that he had (5-8, 203), he gave us everything he had. But this guy is a lot like what we have with Marshawn and Robert.
“We don’t have to play small ball, let’s put it that way.”
Michael wore No. 33 at A&M and will inherit that number from Washington when the rookies report next Thursday for their three-day minicamp that starts Friday.
But even while wearing the same number, no one will mistake Michael for Washington. His style is one where power takes precedence over finesse, and the first step is the most important step.
“He’s our kind of runner,” Schneider said. “He’s a tough, intense, up-field, one-cut guy. A very good football player.”
You can see what Schneider and Smith are talking about by checking out Michael’s A&M highlights on YouTube.
And all of that was easy to see once the Seahawks started studying Michael. From area scout Matt Berry. To director of college scouting Scott Fitterer. To Schneider. To coach Pete Carroll. To Smith.
It might start with his speed, but it’s also the way his physical, one-step-and-go style fits what the Seahawks are doing in the running game.
“He’s a really explosive back,” Berry said. “One cut, downhill, runs through arm-tackles. Real good balance on contact. He’s just an explosive NFL back. He’s got a lot of talent.
“It jumps off the tape.”
Now, Michael will jump into the competition at a stocked position that already includes Pro Bowl-caliber fullback Michael Robinson in addition to Lynch, who rushed for a career-high 1,590 yards last season; and Turbin, who had a 100-yard rushing game and averaged 4.4 yards per carry during his rookie season. The Seahawks also drafted LSU running back Spencer Ware in the sixth round and will look at him initially at fullback. They signed Derrick Coleman to a future contract in January after he spent time on the practice squad last season.
“Michael is a really good back, and I think he’s going to do a good job for us and increase the competition at the position,” Smith said.
Or as Carroll put it, “We want this position loaded up. The chance to get another good, strong, tough guy like he is just adds to the theme of what we’re trying to present as a team. … To have this consistency in the makeup of the guys is a good thing for us.”
The 5-foot-10 Michael is a relatively low-yardage back for one who was selected in the second round.
After stringing together seasons with 1,300 yards and 21 touchdowns (sophomore), 1,171 yards and 28 TDs (junior) and 1,412 yards and 25 TDs (seniors) at West Brook High School in Beaumont, Texas, Michael went to A&M and was Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year after rushing for 844 yards. But his sophomore season ended after eight games – and 631 yards – because of a broken leg; and his junior season ended after nine games – and 899 yards – because of a damaged knee ligament. Michael returned to rush for 417 yards and 12 touchdowns as a situational back last season.
So during his four-year stay with the Aggies, Michael never carried the ball more than 166 times in a season – and that came during his freshman season.
Hungry? Ravenous might be a better word to describe Michael as he prepares to bring his game to the next level.
“I finally get to live my dream,” he said shortly after being selected by the Seahawks. “Playing pro ball has been my dream since Day One. I just want to go to the league and do it for my family, my daughter, and just to be something I can’t even imagine myself being.
“Just to be a powerful guy, a leader and be a young player coming in with confidence and just help contribute.”
And he’ll get the opportunity to do all of that with a team that liked him so much that it made Michael its top draft choice despite not having a pressing need at the position.