Winding road leads Toomer to Seattle

Posted May 15, 2012

Korey Toomer wasn't even invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. But after linebackers coach Ken Norton, Jr. saw him at his Pro Day workout, the Seahawks decided Toomer was draft worthy.

Korey Toomer has followed a meandering path to the NFL.

But now that he’s here, as the Seahawks’ fifth-round draft choice, the rookie linebacker from Idaho is not only making up for lost time, he’s doing it in a blur. At the rookie minicamp over the weekend, and again in the offseason program workouts this week, the one thing that has stood out about Toomer is that he does everything fast.

“The dude can run, no question about it,” veteran linebacker Leroy Hill said on Tuesday, shaking his head.

Toomer, in fact, ran himself right into being draft by the Seahawks – even though the team already had selected pass-rushing end Bruce Irvin in the first round and middle linebacker Bobby Wagner in the second round.

And now Toomer is running himself into praise from coach Pete Carroll.

“Korey Toomer did very well, probably more comfortable than we thought,” Carroll said Sunday after watching the rookie work at three spots in the three-day minicamp. “We thought he might be a little bit more raw and it would be a process where he could show that he could fit in.

“But we played him at the SAM (strong side) spot, played him at WILL (weak side) and nickel, and he had some very good rushes. He looked like we had hoped, so we’re excited about him getting into it.”

Now, back to the roundabout road Toomer followed in getting to this point where he could get into it.

After being a two-way starter at Shadow Ridge High School in Las Vegas, Toomer ended up at Arizona Western College. A two-year starter at linebacker, he had almost twice as many tackles as a sophomore (86) as he did during his freshman season (44) for the community college in Yuma.

Then it was on to Idaho, but not exactly a path that led anyone to believe the NFL would be his next stop. He was a backup and special teams player his first season for the Vandals and then redshirted in 2010 after breaking a hand in fall camp. He returned last season to register 68 tackles and even step in at tailback when another player got injured – scoring three touchdowns as the short-yardage back against Utah State, and Wagner. Toomer was voted team MVP.

But it wasn’t enough to get him an invitation to the NFL Scouting Combine in February, when there were 33 linebackers on display. Then came what proved to be a fateful day in late March – Idaho’s Pro Day. Toomer ran the 40-yard dash in 4.53 seconds at 234-pounds; broad jumped 10 feet, 10 inches; and slapped an exclamation point on his effort by popping a 42-inch vertical leap.

Ken Norton, Jr., the Seahawks’ linebackers coach, was there to witness Toomer’s coming-out party.

“He was excited about the workout,” general manager John Schneider said of Norton’s reaction. “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’s how Toomer ended up being the 21st linebacker selected in the draft, and the fifth on the third and final day. Not bad for a kid who began the draft process rated 22nd among just the outside linebackers by

Toomer arrived in Seattle last Thursday with his eyes – and ears – wide open.

Asked about working with Norton, a former three-time Pro Bowl linebacker, Toomer offered, “It’s a pleasure. It’s a great learning experience for me. I came in not knowing a lot and he taught me a lot.”

Toomer spent most of his time during the minicamp working on the strong side, next to Wagner, in the No. 1 defense. The past two days in the offseason program, he has worked behind K.J. Wright, who won the starting spot on the strong side as a rookie last season.

“Taking it a day at a time,” Toomer said. “We’ll go in the playbook, learn some stuff and then we’ll go out here and work it. It’s been a good experience to get in the playbook with coach Norton and go watch film and learn these plays.”

One final question begged to be asked: Which is more satisfying, scoring a rushing touchdown or stopping a rushing touchdown from being scored?

“Stopping a rushing touchdown,” Toomer said, without a blink of hesitation. “I love to hit. That’s why I play defense and that’s why I’m here – to make plays on defense and play special teams.”

And do both with a lot of speed and athleticism.