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Devon Witherspoon Bringing 'Outrageous Energy' & Leadership To Seahawks Heading Into Second Season

Second-year cornerback Devon Witherspoon followed up a Pro-Bowl rookie season with an offseason program that impressed his teammates and coaches.


As Seahawks coach Mike Macdonald talked to the media following the second and final practice of minicamp, Devon Witherspoon, on his way to the locker room, interrupted his head coach to take advantage of his last opportunity until training camp to talk a little more smack.

"Just tell them that we got on the offense's ass today," a grinning Witherspoon shouted on his way past Macdonald's press conference.

The defense indeed had a great day on Wednesday, and in that very brief exchange, Witherspoon demonstrated some of what has made him so popular with his teammates this offseason. There was, of course, the humor and energy—"outrageous energy" is how defensive lineman Leonard Williams described it—and also, if leadership can be found in some playful trash talk, Witherspoon was doing so in that he was hyping up not his own play so much as that of his teammates who came through with five interceptions in that day's practice (though if you ask Witherspoon it should have been six, with an impressive diving catch of a ball he tipped to himself being ruled incomplete in the back of the end zone).

After missing much of last year's offseason workout program due to a lingering hamstring injury, Witherspoon is healthy and has been one of the standouts this year as he prepares for his second season in the NFL. The No. 5 overall pick in last year's draft, Witherspoon had a standout rookie season, earning Pro-Bowl honors and Defensive Rookie of the Year votes, though he might have finished higher in the voting for that award had he not missed three games due to injury. Witherspoon knows that improving upon an impressive rookie season starts with staying healthy for an entire season.

"First of all, I want to play all games, the whole season," he said. "I missed a couple games last year so I'm trying to make sure I get through the whole season healthy and then I'm just really trying to build on my year. I left a lot of plays out there on the table that I wish I had back, so just trying to make those plays this year."

And if Witherspoon gets through this season healthy as planned, there's little doubt among his teammates and coaches that he should be in for a special year, one full of big plays and big energy.

"Spoon is a great player," Williams said. "When I got traded here in the middle of the season last year, I was just like, 'Dang, who is this guy?' He does have just very outrageous energy and in a great way and also for a small guy, he plays very physical and rowdy. He almost reminds me of a defensive lineman or something like that. Defensive linemen have certain personalities. Corners are usually quieter guys, they're more finesse guys a lot of times where it's like this guy wants to put his face in there, get dirty, and I love seeing that in the secondary. Going into this season, what I was just talking about, all the multiple guys we have up front and then knowing that we have those guys in the back end, I'm really excited about playing in this defense honestly."

Fellow 2023 first-round pick Jaxon Smith-Njigba, who formed a close friendship with Witherspoon last season, has noticed the already-talkative Witherspoon taking on more of a vocal leadership role heading into Year 2. Yes, the trash talk is still there, as is the enthusiastic hyping up of teammates after good plays, but as his teammates are noticing, there's leadership among all that noise as well.

"I think he's been doing an awesome job, just being vocal," Smith-Njigba said. "To me he looks like the captain of the defense, making sure everybody's lined up and just using his voice more from year one to year two. He's been great. A phenomenal player, All-Pro. I'm a big fan of him, so I'm just definitely excited to watch him take the steps physically, he's getting bigger, he's getting faster and just more comfortable, being smarter. He plays extremely fast and we all know how physical he is in the run game on whoever has the ball. I'm glad he is on my team. I get to go against him every day and can only get better from that.

Macdonald has only been coaching Witherspoon for a few months now, but he's already impressed with everything from the football intelligence to the playmaking ability to the boundless energy that's rubbing off on teammates.

"It's great," Macdonald said. "I told him today I couldn't believe he was the smartest football player of all time and it's only his second year in the NFL. He's got an answer for everything. No, hey, be yourself. That's who he is. We love him. He's a great player already in this league. We're really excited about him. Again, all those guys are great, man. Energy is right where we want it."

And for Macdonald that type of energy is needed for a team to get to where it wants to go, "We talked about it the other day as a team. We got to be a player-led team. Championship teams, coaches can only take the guys so far. Doesn't matter. You can lead from whatever your role is. Devon has a unique role that's specific to him, which we're like Uchenna (Nwosu)'s role would be a little bit different than his role, more vocal with the guys. We want to start in the roles you're in, let's rock and roll. Yeah, the energy is pretty great."

And while the more intangible traits like leadership and energy have shown up this offseason, Witherspoon has also been showing off plenty of on-field playmaking ability that has also impressed.

"He's a really talented young player for him to not be the biggest guy," safety Rayshawn Jenkins, a free-agent addition, said earlier this offseason during OTAs. "He plays with a lot of heart out there, you can see it even from here. I was just thinking about this today actually, but his breaking on the ball is just elite. It's some of the best I've probably ever seen. I was literally just thinking about it today. I saw him break up two passes and the receiver had a step or two on him and closing speed is crazy. He just gets right to the ball, undercuts the ball. He's going to make a lot of plays as he has been doing coming off of last season."

As for how Witherspoon sees things going in Macdonald's defense, the second-year corner likes how the defense is coming along, saying, "We're starting to catch our swag with it, add our own little flavor to it, but we're getting comfortable with it really fast, faster than what we thought we would. But yeah, we're kind of getting it down pat now."

Witherspoon also likes what he been seeing from Macdonald, saying, "He's cool with people, coach is different though. He's a brain guy so he's very smart and intellectual. It's the way he builds defense, it is not natural or normal around the league. That's what makes him different."

Asked if that made Macdonald a football nerd, Witherspoon grinned and said, "Yeah, nerdy for sure. Nerdy for sure. But it is in a good way though, his own way and I think that's what makes him who he is."

And just like his coach, Witherspoon is being himself, doing things in his own unique way, and his teammates like what they're seeing.

"To me he's leading, he's a leader, he's a natural born leader and you can see a lot of guys gravitate to him," Smith-Njigba said. "He's a special player for us."

Seahawks players participated in the team's media day on Monday, June 10, 2024. Check out some of the best behind the scenes photos from the day.

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