George Fant's mother, Kim, moved to Seattle to help her son and daughter in law, Chastity, with their two young children. And while it wasn't her intent, Kim Fant may also end up helping the Seahawks' offensive line with that move to the Pacific Northwest.
Fant, who is heading into his second season after being a surprise starter for much of his rookie year, estimates he is 25 pounds heavier now than he was at the end of the season. And while that weight gain is largely the result of his hard work in the weight room and the efforts of team nutritionist Michele Clarke-Mason, Fant said he has also been able to bulk up with the help of his mom's cooking.
"Just a lot of stuff in the weight room," Fant said of bulking up to 320 pounds. "A lot of working out in the weight room, protein, changed my diet. Things I needed to do to get stronger. Just eating more in general. I was watching my portions of food before, but now I'm just kind of eating. You can just kind of eat. Also, my mom lives with me now, so she's got that good Southern food for me."
The weight gain was a natural next step for Fant, a former college basketball standout at Western Kentucky who weighed just 250 pounds during his final season of basketball, and was still undersized by NFL tackle standards last season.
"I mean, I can't be at 290 getting bull-rushed," he said. "I knew I needed some weight for sure."
But for as different as Fant looks physically, those extra pounds won't make as big a difference in his second season as will the experience he gained last year. As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and plenty of other coaches have noted in the past, players often make their biggest leap from their rookie season to their second season because there is so much to learn in that first NFL season. But for Fant, the room for growth is considerably bigger than usual considering his limited football background.
Fant was an all-conference power forward at Western Kentucky before deciding to give football a try as a fifth-year senior. Having not even played high school football, Fant saw very limited playing time in his one year of college football—he estimates it was seven or eight snaps on offense in addition to some special teams work—but he was impressive enough in his pro day workout for the Seahawks to sign him as an undrafted free agent. Fant not only made the roster out of training camp, but he progressed quickly enough that the Seahawks made him the starter at left tackle when Bradley Sowell went down with an injury, then left him there for the rest of the season even after Sowell returned.
Yet even if Fant and the Seahawks saw progress from week to week—"It was slowly slowing down, let's just say that," he said—some time to reflect and study this offseason has allowed him to realize how much he didn't know as a rookie.
"It feels completely different," Fant said of this offseason compared to last. "I was actually laughing about it earlier today, about how I can actually understand what's going on around me and be able to make a play, make a call to let Justin (Britt) know something's coming or let Russell (Wilson) know something's coming. It's just so much better to know what you're doing and not have a doubt in your mind… I felt personally like I was getting better every snap, every game. I felt like I was getting better and better, but I knew deep down it took this whole offseason for me to get to where I want to be."
Almost as soon as the season ended, Fant started watching film with his wife, breaking down the things he did well and the things he needed to fix.
"You'll see a pattern going on, so I found the pattern and I was like, 'OK, I've got to address these things,' so that's what I did," he said. "… There were things where something happened to me, and I just tried not to let the same thing happen to me again, but some stuff you can't control, you can only do what you know. That's the cool thing about this. This is all I know. What I was taught here is the only thing I know; I don't know a different way but the way they taught me. Now I'm just adding little tools to that toolkit."
In addition to that film study with Chastity, a fellow Western Kentucky hoops standout, Fant has also spent time talking about the game and his position with Hall of Fame tackle Walter Jones.
"Just having conversations with him, just sitting down with him since halfway through the season last year, just sitting with him talking," Fant said of his interactions with Jones, one of the best players to ever wear a Seahawks uniform. "Just taking what he says, taking it in, soaking it in, then applying it to my game at some point.
"He's around every now and then, and one day I was just like, 'Hey, let me talk to you, because I know you're watching. I know you're watching the left tackle position, because I know when I turn the TV on to watch a game, that's the first thing I'm looking at.' And I just asked him what he thought, what he'd seen, and he told me. I respected it, I thought he was right, and from there we moved on."
Fant isn't guaranteed a starting spot in Year 2. The Seahawks signed former first-round pick Luke Joeckel as a free agent this offseason, and while Joeckel is also an option at left guard, Fant knows he'll need to be on his game in training camp to keep a starting job. And thanks to the experience he gained last year, the wisdom of a Seahawks Legend, and yes, a little Southern cooking, Fant is much better prepared to compete for that job now than he was a year ago.
"I can't even tell you how much farther along George Fant is," Carroll said last week. "If you guys have seen George, George looks entirely different. He had a tremendous offseason working out. He's probably 15, 17 pounds heavier than he was, and it's all muscle and strength work that he has put forth. He has presented himself the best we've seen him too. I'm really excited about him too."
The Seahawks held their fifth of seven Organized Team Activities (OTAs) on Tuesday, June 6 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.