After the Seahawks wrapped up practice on Wednesday, DK Metcalf was one of the last players to leave the field, a regular occurrence for the rookie receiver who routinely catches balls from a JUGS machine after practice.
And it's that extra work—the time after practice, the way he attacks Russell Wilson's meticulous weekly scouting reports that the quarterback gives to all the receivers, the attention to detail in film study—that has allowed Metcalf to become one of the most prolific rookie receivers in franchise history.
Yes, there is the absurd combination of size and speed, rare traits that impress teammates and coaches in how "he's a big-ass dude who can move like that," as Marshawn Lynch succinctly put it. But Metcalf is much more than the physique that helped him become a social media sensation before the draft, or even than the 4.33-second 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL scouting combine.
Metcalf's combination of physical traits, work ethic and high football IQ helped him catch 58 passes for 900 yards and seven touchdowns during the regular season, the second most catches and receiving yards by a rookie in franchise history. Then in Sunday's wild-card win over the Eagles, Metcalf hauled in seven catches for 160 yards, a performance that included a 53-yard touchdown catch as well as a 36-yard reception on third-and-10 that put the game on ice.
Metcalf's yardage total against the Eagles was a franchise postseason record, as well as an NFL postseason record for rookie pass-catchers. But while that type of performance in the postseason might have caught a lot of people's attention outside of the organization—LeBron James even gave Metcalf a shoutout on Instagram—it didn't surprise anyone in the Seahawks locker room.
"He has been really steady," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said after the game. "He's always understood as we installed and taught him stuff. He's always picked things up. He's never stumbled or staggered his way through it. He's been a great learner and he's been a great worker. He takes his work very seriously. He practices really seriously. He stays late all the time. He's always working on his things—on his technique, on his principles. That's just been the way he has been, so I don't think there's been big changes. I think, if anything has shifted, would be his confidence is really there. He knows he can play this game at this level and he wants to be in the middle of it all. He's got a great demeanor about that too. He's not yapping about wanting the football or for calling for this or that. He just plays the game the way you love guys to play—with great work ethic and great focus. And he's got marvelous talent, so he's just getting going. I just think it's been a really steady ascent to this point. That was a huge game obviously, but he's been playing good football all year."
Metcalf said the reaction to his big game "has been great," but added, "it's time to focus in on Green Bay… Can't harp on that one moment."
But even if Metcalf doesn't want to make a big deal about his record-setting performance, he is very appreciative of how things have turned out for him this year. For starters, there was, for a short time at least, concern his football days were over due to a neck injury he suffered last season at Ole Miss.
The first doctor Metcalf saw told him his football career was over, news Metcalf called, "heartbreaking. I cried because football was taken away from me at that moment. The second opinion told me otherwise."
After a more optimistic second opinion and surgery, Metcalf's NFL dreams were back on track, but the draft came with more disappointment. Projected by many to be a first-round pick, Metcalf slid to the end of the second round before the Seahawks traded back into the second round to select him with the 64th overall pick, making Metcalf the ninth receiver picked in the 2019 draft.
At the time Metcalf was upset about the long wait, then he broke down when the Seahawks finally called, crying on the phone when general manager John Schneider called. After Schneider handed the phone off to Carroll, Metcalf asked, "Why'd y'all wait this long?"
The long wait was hard at the time, but Metcalf says now that things couldn't have worked out any better for him. Yes, it would have been nice to be a first-round pick, but he ended up going to a team that is now one of the final eight still playing this season, he came into a situation where he was able to compete for and win a starting job, and he happened to land on a team that employs one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, one who immediately took Metcalf under his wing, even calling him the night he was drafted.
"It was a perfect situation for me," Metcalf said. "At the moment, I was mad. After everything is said and done, looking back at it, just happy that I landed here. Great quarterback, great offense, great team, organization. We're in the playoffs. Still playing and a lot of teams are at home. It was a great moment."
From that great moment in April to the ones Metcalf provided in Philadelphia on Sunday, this has been a rookie year to remember for Metcalf. And based off what he has shown his team all season long, including last weekend, there's no reason to believe he can't make another great moment happen in Green Bay on Sunday.
"DK was special tonight and he's been special all year," Wilson said after the win in Philadelphia. "He's one of the best rookies that's come out and has a nice little chip on his shoulder, too. I'm glad he's on our team, that's for sure… He's just been doing a great job, and more importantly, as the season has gone on, some people hit the rookie wall; there's no such thing for him. He has stayed the course and he continues to get stronger. He's like American Pharoah out there—he gets stronger as the race goes on and he's doing a great job of that."
Go behind the scenes with team photographer Rod Mar as he shares moments from the Seattle Seahawks' wild card game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Eye on the Hawks is presented by Western Washington Toyota Dealers.