Leading up to last week's game in Miami, defensive back Ryan Neal knew he was prepared for his first NFL start. He was also a little starstruck.
"Kam Chancellor reached out and broke down all my practice film like he was in the building and I'm just like, man, this is incredible." Neal said.
Neal had asked plenty of questions of his teammates but getting an unsolicited offer from the Seahawks legend was unexpected and brought him back to his fandom.
"Before practice Coach Carroll tapped me on the shoulder and said, 'Kam Chancellor wants to talk to you. Come up to my office and get his number.' At first I was just like a fan." Neal said. "Coming up in the football world everyone watched the Legion of Boom it was like this is Kam Chancellor. This is the guy. For me, to play in similar defenses as he did, it was the best thing ever for him to reach out and tell me exactly how he saw it and how he saw things."
Four plays into Sunday's game in Miami, he looked like a Chancellor protégé making the big defensive play, an interception, that set up the Seahawks first score. It was Neal's second interception in as many games, but those highlights couldn't top the experience of meeting Chancellor.
"It was probably one of the coolest experiences I've had being in the league so far getting advice from a legendary dude."
Neal's emergence might be a surprise to fans, but anyone who's watched him practice knows his recent success isn't a fluke.
"The biggest thing is his eagerness to learn," defensive captain Bobby Wagner said. "Even though he was on the practice squad last year, he was trying to make plays at practice, trying to figure out where Russ was trying to get the ball. He was asking questions and he was trying to get better. That's always the sign of a guy who's going to be around a long time in the league—trying to get better no matter what your situation."
Neal approached practices like he would a game, so the team wouldn't feel the need to look elsewhere when they needed another player. He wasn't biding his time on the practice squad. He was utilizing it.
"I'm playing against the No. 1 offense every week. I'm playing against Russell, I'm playing against the guys who are on the field, so why not take this opportunity to critique my craft and do the best that I can against the guys who are actually playing? So when the time comes, it won't be such a shock."
"Ryan is the type of kid who sucks up all the information," defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. said. "Once it's his time to play, you can see all the information. He's able to use it and put himself in a position to be very impactful."
The Seahawks will be using him for another week at strong safety. Jamal Adams has been ruled out for Sunday’s game against Minnesota, giving Neal the opportunity to make his first prime time start, not that he has time to think about it.
"I haven't gotten a moment to even take it all in because it's my turn now. Let's go and let's play. Like I told Jamal, I'm here to hold it down until you come back."