Justin Britt pins hopes on competitive nature

Posted May 14, 2014

Last week, Justin Britt was wondering who would select him in the NFL Draft, and when. This week, the offensive tackle from Missouri is preparing for the Seahawks’ rookie minicamp after being drafted in the second round.

For Justin Britt, the truth was in the tweet: Rise and grind.

Britt, an offensive tackle from Missouri and the second of the Seahawks’ two second-round draft choices, tweeted that Wednesday morning – before hitting the practice field at Virginia Mason Athletic Center, where the team’s rookie class has joined the veterans for their offseason program as part of their crash-course prelude to this weekend’s three-day rookie minicamp.

Rise and grind, indeed. The euphoria of being selected in the second round of the NFL Draft last Friday has given way to the sweat that comes with working in unseasonably warm temperatures along the shores of Lake Washington.

“It’s football now,” Britt said in the locker room. “It’s kind of getting acquainted with a new program and catching on quickly.”

And on the run, which the rookies have been doing the past three days as they’ve been cramming to learn the basics of the playbook and getting accustomed to how the Seahawks do things, in addition to slipping in next to the veterans for their workouts and classroom sessions.

A three-year starter at Missouri, Britt will compete with Michael Bowie to be the Seahawks’ starter at right tackle, a spot that opened when Breno Giacomini signed with the New York Jets in free agency. This week, Britt is working with a No. 2 line that also includes rookie free agent Garry Gilliam at left tackle, Caylin Hauptman at left guard, Lemuel Jeanpierre at center and Stephen Schilling at right guard. Bowie is at right tackle with the No. 1 unit that also includes Alvin Bailey at left tackle, because Russell Okung is recovering from toe surgery; James Carpenter at left guard, Pro Bowler Max Unger at center and J.R. Sweezy at right guard.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity,” Britt said of being not just a rookie but a rookie with a cause. “The O-line seems like a great group of guys who are good people to be around. So I’m going to just come in and compete, make myself better and try to make the people around me better.”   

One of the things Tom Cable likes best about Britt is his competitiveness, and the Seahawks’ assistant head coach/offensive line coach points to Britt’s background as a high school wrestler for proof as to just how competitive the 6-foot-6, 325-pound Britt is. He was 45-0 and the Missouri Class IV heavyweight champion as a senior at Lebanon High School.

“Love it,” Cable said when asked how much he likes a wrestling background in his linemen. “Yeah, I love it. He’s competitive. Loves to grind. Loves to work. He’s got his priorities in line.”

Britt smiled before saying that his time as a wrestler was “back in the day.” Still, 30 of his 45 victories came by pins and his closest outcome was in the state title match, which he won 6-2. And he also concedes that the traits it takes to be a good wrestler translate into what it takes to be a good lineman.

“I think that’s where my competitive edge comes from,” Britt said. “In football, O-line doesn’t get looked at a lot. But you know you’re one-on-one every play with somebody. So either you’re going to win or you’re going to let him win. It’s whoever works harder and prepares harder.”

Wrestling helped Britt find that inner next level that is needed when push comes to shove.

“Being a wrestler, you get pushed to limits you didn’t even know you could be pushed to,” he said. “Everybody is looking at you, and you don’t want to be the guy that gives up in front of however many people are there.

“So the adrenaline kicks in. You get a second breath of fresh air and you start going again.”

Just like Britt has had to do this week, when the excitement of being the 64th pick overall has morphed into a flight to Seattle and his immersion into all things Seahawks.

“The NFL has been a dream,” he said. “This is a great place, great coaching staff and, like I said, a great group of guys in the O-line room. So it’s been a smooth transition. Overwhelming trying to learn the offense, but today it definitely clicked better and I’ve just got to keep studying.”

Not to mention, rising and grinding.