The Seahawks were interested in Ahkello Witherspoon when he was an athletic cornerback with good length coming out of the University of Colorado, but the 49ers took him early in the third round before Seattle could make their move. Four years later, however, Witherspoon is a Seahawk, having signed earlier this spring in free agency, and is ready to show what he can do now that he’s healthy and has an opportunity to compete for a starting job.
And now that Witherspoon has made his way to Seattle four years after he and the Seahawks thought might have been the case, it's time for fans to get to know the team's new cornerback, so here are five things to know about Witherspoon:
1. Music is in his DNA.
Plenty of people in all walks of life think they're musically talented, but when Witherspoon says he can sing, play drums and write music, there's good reason to take him at his word. That's because he's the grandson of Jimmy Witherspoon, a renowned blues singer who recorded several blues hits, including 1949's "Ain't Nobody's Business," his version of which was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame.
"I can sing, play the drums, I can write music," he said. "I got it from my grandfather. My dad can sign, write music, my sister writes music, sings as well, so we're all very talented and enjoy that space and that piece that comes with singing and creating… It keeps me sane, for sure. Every day in the showers, free time in the offseason, stuff like that."
2. Dr. Witherspoon?
Not long after Witherspoon became an NFL player in 2017, he told Bay Area reporters that he has plans for a big career after football. Witherspoon, who majored in Ecology & Evolutionary Biology at Colorado, plans to attend medical school whenever his playing days are over so he can become a doctor.
"Med school, it's happening no matter if it's a year or 12 away]," [Witherspoon told ESPN in 2017. "It's my passion. I have always been interested in how things work, and I think the body is a great place to kind of jump in and figure it out."
3. He's a Renaissance man when it comes to sports too.
In addition to being a Renaissance man when it comes to his off-the-field endeavors, Witherspoon was quite the versatile athlete growing up as well. While he ended up making a career out of football, he also excelled at soccer, baseball and football to the point that major league teams showed interest in him as a high schooler and that he was considered good enough to play college in any of those three sports other than football.
As Witherspoon told ESPN in 2017, that multi-sport background helps him as a cornerback: "It's big. Just body awareness, especially soccer. The footwork, body awareness—as well as, like, baseball, being able to track the ball, [and] basketball, that short-area agility to cover laterally, like playing defense in basketball. So I think all the sports kind of culminated to where I am as a football player."
4. Witherspoon's father likes to make sure his son stays grounded.
Witherspoon definitely doesn't lack confidence, saying that when healthy he can be the best corner in the league, but if he ever needs someone to keep him grounded, his father, Lucky, is happy to handle that role. As Lucky told the Athletic, when his son has a good game or practice, he'll respond with negative feedback to make sure his son stays grounded.
"Whenever I tell him something good from the day, it's just like a humble reminder to stay diligent, stay grounded." Witherspoon said. "… It's kind of our deal, no one really cares about what you did, just do better. When you have that mindset, it just continues to push you to strive to be a better person and better player."
5. Richard Sherman played a role in the decision to come to Seattle.
One reason Witherspoon liked the idea of going to Seattle in the draft was that he grew up watching the way the Legion of Boom defense dominated teams using cornerbacks who were built similarly to him. Obviously that didn't happen in 2017, but a year later Witherspoon did become teammates with Richard Sherman when Sherman signed with the 49ers as a free agent. And before making his final decision to sign with Seattle, Witherspoon checked in with Sherman about that option and was told it would be a good place for him to thrive.
"I called him about the decision, I wanted to know what the culture was like," Witherspoon said. "He said it would be a great fit, he was excited for me. Stuff that I had already heard, but I just wanted to confirm it from somebody that has been here. He was very helpful and encouraging for me to make this decision."
A look back at cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon during his time with the 49ers. Witherspoon signed with the Seahawks after four seasons in San Francisco, where he started in 33 of 47 games played, recording four interceptions, 24 passes defensed, 117 tackles, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery.