Opportunity calls, and Benson Mayowa answers

Posted May 14, 2013

Benson Mayowa was preparing to return to the University of Idaho on Sunday afternoon, but the Seahawks had other plans for the pass-rushing defensive end after his tryout at the team’s rookie minicamp.

Benson Mayowa was preparing for his flight back to the University of Idaho on Sunday afternoon, and pondering what else he could have done to impress the coaches during the Seahawks’ just-completed three-day rookie minicamp.

Then his phone rang. It was the Seahawks, and the call Mayowa was hoping to get.

Of the three-dozen players who had participated in the weekend minicamp on a tryout basis, two were being signed – Mayowa, a defensive end who registered 67 tackles, 11 sacks and 11 forced fumbles the past four seasons for the Vandals; and tight end Victor Marshall, who went to Juanita High School in Kirkland before moving on to Simon Fraser University and the University of British Columbia.

“I wasn’t worried about the numbers,” Mayowa said Tuesday after the defensive players had completed their on-field work during the team’s offseason program. “I just knew I had to do enough to get signed, and that’s what I did.”

During the minicamp, Mayowa stood out among the rookies. “I felt like I set myself apart,” is the way he put it. “That’s the mantra I had.”

Now, he’s trying to fit it while working with a group of defensive ends that includes Red Bryant, the starter at the five-technique spot the past 2½ seasons; Bruce Irvin, who led all NFL rookies with eight sacks last season after being selected in the first round of the NFL Draft; Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, who were signed in free agency this offseason; and Kenneth Boatright, who was signed as a free agent after the draft. Chris Clemons, who has led the defense in sacks in each of his three seasons with the Seahawks, will eventually join them once he recovers from surgery to repair ligament and meniscus damage in his left knee that he got during the wild-card playoff victory over the Washington Redskins in January.

Long odds? Of course, but at least Mayowa is part of that group, which is all he was hoping for.

“I just knew I had to make the team,” he said. “I’ve been overlooked all my life. So I felt this was the opportunity I’d been waiting for, and I just took it.”

The Seahawks were onto Mayowa before the NFL Draft. They liked his explosive first step and relentlessness coming off the edge – prerequisites for playing the Leo end spot in coach Pete Carroll’s defense that is now being coordinated by Dan Quinn.

“When we watched him at Idaho, we saw a guy who had initial quickness on the edge,” Quinn said. “That’s one of the first things you’re looking for in a rusher, and he had it. After the draft, when it came time to sign the free agents, we didn’t necessarily have a spot.

“But we told him we’d love to have him come to camp and tryout.”

Over the weekend, when he was wearing No. 70, Mayowa displayed those traits that first caught the Seahawks’ attention. That has allowed him to return – now wearing No. 47 – to join the veterans, draft choices and rookie free agents in the offseason program.

“After that first day, I said, ‘OK, there’s something there,’ ” Quinn said. “After the second day, we said, ‘Let’s take another evaluation tomorrow.’ So Sunday, we gave him a lot of reps and you could see it – that initial quickness.”

And that’s why the 6-foot-3, 236-pound Mayowa is still here – playing this hybrid position on this defense that is stocked with players who have unique qualities. While he might not have fit with other NFL teams, Mayowa’s skills fit what the Seahawks look for at the Leo position. It didn’t hurt that Mayowa played a similar role with the Vandals.

“You have to search for those guys,” Quinn said. “He’s got the traits for it – explosive power to his start and quickness for that first 10-yard area.”

Those attributes have gotten Mayowa this far. Just how far he can take it remains to be seen.

“I want to make that 53 (man roster). I’ve got to. I’ve got to,” he said. “This is an opportunity, and you’ve got to take it.”