As an undrafted rookie receiver in 2015, Quinton Dunbar was going through special teams drills when then-Washington coach Jay Gruden noticed that gunners on the punt team couldn't get past Dunbar, who was on the return team.
"He just asked me, 'Man, have you ever played DB?'" Dunbar said Thursday on a video press conference.
Dunbar hadn't, but he also listened when Gruden told him a move to cornerback could be his best shot at making the team, and a day later he went through one-on-one drills as a cornerback and, as he remembers it, "I did two reps, nobody got the ball, and that was history, that was all she wrote right there."
Dunbar not only stuck around in the NFL as a cornerback, he eventually became a starter for Washington, and last year he was the second-highest rated cornerback in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus before an injury cut his season short after 11 games. Now a member of the Seahawks following an offseason trade, Seattle is hoping that training camp observation by Gruden five years ago—along with another shrewd trade by Seahawks general manager John Schneider to acquire a player of Dunbar's caliber for just a fifth-round pick—will help upgrade the Seahawks secondary.
"I'm excited about this guy," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said earlier this offseason. "He's a playmaker. We need depth at corner and we need to cover people up and we need to be able to match up really well. The division continues to get more difficult and challenging—excellent players coming in. So for us to figure out a chance to get to Quinton is great… It makes us that much more competitive and hopefully just adds to this coverage that we need to play the kind of ball we want to play."
And just as Carroll and the Seahawks are excited about what Dunbar can bring to the defense, he's excited to play in a defense that he calls "a perfect fit" for his skillset as a 6-foot-2 cornerback who prides himself on his competitive nature.
"When I first heard about a trade to Seattle, I was excited," Dunbar said. "I mean, what better fit? They're a winning culture, they've been winning for a while. Then as far as the fit, I feel like their defense is who I am. I'm their ideal corner as far as measurables, and the type of mentality that I have. Growing up watching (Richard Sherman) and (Brandon) Browner, those type of guys, that's who I tried to model my game after once I made the transition, so felt like it was a perfect fit for me."
As Dunbar has mentioned in a couple of interviews, he's familiar with the step-kick technique Carroll likes his corners to use having worked in the offseason with former Seahawks assistant Marquand Manuel, a fellow Miami native and University of Florida product. So Dunbar doesn't think the adjustment will be too difficult, and as for where he'll play, both he and Schneider have mentioned his versatility, so there are a few options, but for now at least, Dunbar said he's starting out focused on right cornerback, the spot where Tre Flowers started the past two seasons.
"I'm pretty versatile," he said. "In Washington for few years we did it where anybody could become the nickel, meaning you just start out as the outside corner, but if you guy motions to the slot, you now become the slot role… But predominantly I think for right now I'm probably going—they don't throw a lot at me at once—so I'm probably going to just start out on that right side. And once I learn that side, the sky's the limit. I'm just open to helping the team however I can."
As for any past injuries—Dunbar missed five games last season and nine in 2018—he said he's 100 percent healthy now and isn't concerned with past injuries, noting he missed only two games due to injuries in his first three seasons.
"Yeah, the last two years, I had injury complications, but the first three years, I missed only two games in three years," he said. "Playing 16 games is always the goal, but it's football, things happen and stuff like that. But yeah, I wish to play 16 games, because I know when I'm out there what I'm able to do, what I'm able to accomplish. So that's always the goal, but I'm not going to sit here and make it seem like I haven't played three strong years my first three years. The last two years been some hiccups, but I'm at my best right now.
"I'm good to go, I'm 100 (percent). I've been 100."