Korey Toomer making up for lost time

Posted Jun 18, 2013

After spending his rookie season watching and waiting following shoulder surgery, linebacker Korey Toomer is back and ready to show the coaches he can contribute by using his speed and athleticism.

Dan Quinn wasn’t around last year when the Seahawks selected Korey Toomer in the fifth round of the NFL Draft. And when the team’s first-year defensive coordinator did his video review of the 2012 season after being hired in January, Toomer was nowhere to be found because the linebacker from Idaho began his rookie season on the practice squad and finished it on injured reserve after having shoulder surgery in late September.

So Quinn’s introduction to Toomer came during the team’s just-completed offseason program, which included Toomer working on the strong side with the No. 2 and No. 3 defenses during the nine OTA practices and three-day minicamp.

“With Toomer, the athleticism jumps out,” Quinn, the Seahawks’ D-line coach in 2009-10 before leaving to become defensive coordinator at the University of Florida the past two seasons, said on Tuesday. “His initial quickness. His speed. Those are the things that jump out.”

It was these same skills that first attracted the Seahawks to Toomer, who was not invited to NFL Scouting Combine in 2012 but caught the eye of linebackers coach Ken Norton during his Pro Day workout at Idaho. What Norton saw was Toomer run the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at 234 pounds; broad jump 10 feet, 10 inches; and pop a 42-inch vertical leap. Talk about slapping an exclamation point on an impressive effort.

“Ken was excited about the workout,” general manager John Schneider said at the time. “He saw that Korey is a great athlete, can run and had a positive attitude about him. It’s a great thing when you have the position coach buy in like that. Ken had a lot of conviction about him.”

That conviction remained even after Toomer was almost out of mind, if not completely out of sight.

“Coach Norton, he did a real good job in talking to me – keeping me humble, keeping me here,” Toomer said. “Going through all the training and treatment to get my shoulder right, he kept me on the right path.

“I stayed engaged, and it helped me a lot. He always wanted me to come to individual meetings, come to the defensive meetings and be in there and be around the team and let those other guys know I’m still here, I’m stilling working.”

Toomer’s days still include a session in the training room to work on his shoulder, and another in the weight room to strengthen it. But he also was back on the field for the offseason workouts, and just talking about it brought a smile to Toomer’s face.

“It’s been great just to get out there on the field and just to show progress from last year,” he said. “Getting hurt really set me back, so it’s been important just coming out and just showing the coaches that I do have a little game; I can play, too.”

It has been a long wait for Toomer, but then that’s nothing new. After being a two-way starter at Shadow Ridge High School in Las Vegas, Toomer ended up at Arizona Western College – a community college in Yuma. At Idaho, he was a backup in 2009 and then redshirted in 2010 after breaking a hand in fall camp. In 2011, Toomer returned to register 68 tackles and also stepped in at tailback when another player got injured – scoring three touchdowns as the short-yardage back against Utah State.

Now that he’s back on the field for the Seahawks, Toomer would like to have a similar bounce-back effort.

“I’m just out here trying to work, work, work,” he said, before adding, “Sometimes I do have to monitor myself and know that I’m coming off an injury.”

Toomer then smiled again before offering, “Just being around football again is great. I love playing football. I’ve been playing since I was 6. It’s good to be out here. I’m just trying to earn my spot and show these coaches that I can play wherever they want to put me.”

There are roster spots to be had at linebacker. The Seahawks have two proven starters in Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, who finished 1-2 in tackles last season. Other than that, there is a collection of players with potential but also some unanswered questions – Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan, Kyle Knox, Allen Bradford and Toomer.

As Quinn put it, “With Korey, it’s a matter of how much of the details can he get down? He just needs 1,000 reps to show it.”