Back in August when the Seahawks were in Kansas City for a preseason game, general manager John Schneider made a detour to Lawrence to visit the University of Kansas. While he was there, Schneider talked with Troy Kema, the Jayhawks' director of player personnel and student services, who until 2015 had worked at Texas A&M.
Before Schneider and Kema got very far in their conversation, Kema had a message for Schneider.
"You can ask me about all these guys at Kansas and you can ask me about all the guys at Texas A&M, and I'm just going to tell you one thing—if you don't draft Germain Ifedi, you have no idea what you're doing," Schneider recalls Kema telling him.
"I was like, 'All right. I guess we're drafting Germain Ifedi,'" Schneider said with a grin Thursday night a few minutes after the Seahawks did indeed draft Ifedi.
Eight months after that visit to Lawrence, the Seahawks followed Kema's advice, taking Ifedi with the 31st pick of the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft. Seattle originally held the 26th pick in Thursday's first round, but traded it to Denver for the 31st pick and a third-rounder (No. 94 overall). Seattle's first-round pick, it turn out, was in demand, with four or five teams inquiring about the pick eventually used on Memphis quarterback Paxton Lynch, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said.
In Ifedi, the Seahawks drafted a player Schneider referred to as "an ass kicker," and a player the Seahawks hope can help them immediately, perhaps at right tackle. Ifedi played right guard for one season at Texas A&M, then moved to right tackle for his final two seasons before declaring for the draft after his junior season. While the Seahawks like Ifedi's versatility and won't rule him out playing elsewhere, Carroll said they'll start out looking at Ifedi at right tackle.
As things currently stand, the Seahawks have Garry Gilliam moving from right tackle to left tackle where he's expected to compete with free-agent addition Bradley Sowell, and Ifedi figures to compete with free-agent signing J'Marcus Webb at right tackle. Offensive line coach Tom Cable, who will have a first-round rookie lineman to work with for the first time since James Carpenter in 2011, is excited about his team's options at tackle, though it's clear he's ready to let those four players compete for jobs.
"When we first got Garry, part of the thought was the athlete was there, and it was left-tackle athleticism," Cable said. "Certainly he had to have a breakthrough like he did last year to prove himself playing on the edge in this league, and did a beautiful job, really from about Week 5 on was outstanding. So the thought to be able to move him over there is really cool. The other thing you've got to remember is J'Marcus Webb has experience playing over there as well. So I think by getting Germain in here we've really built some fantastic competition with Brad, with J'Marcus, with Garry, and now Germain, and we need that. We need that kind of depth and quality."
Ifedi, a player many draft analysts had projected to be a late-first round pick, perhaps landing in Seattle, felt the Seahawks were a good fit for him ever since Cable worked him out as his Pro Day.
"I met with them at the combine and Coach Cable pretty much ran my pro day workout," Ifedi said on a conference call with local media. "I didn't visit, but I always had a feeling that Seattle was a good fit for me, that Seattle was a place that my skillset fit. I heard all the rumors, I heard all the chatter, but I knew there was always a shot. I knew there was a shot a lot of places, but once it got down to the end, I was like Seattle or bust. Seattle was the place to be and Seattle was the place I felt the best about the whole process."
Ifedi hoped the Seahawks would take him with the 26th pick, but wondered if he might not end up in Seattle, or a first-round pick, as the final picks were made Thursday. But when Ifedi finally got the call from Schneider, he couldn't hide his excitement.
"That was 10, 12 years of hard work coming to roost," Ifedi said from his home in Houston. "I know it's not my ultimate goal of being a great player, but it's another step, it's a huge step. It was a long wait, 30 picks, and you get that call—you don't know who it's from, it could be a bill collector, you don't know. You don't know who's calling you. If it's the wrong person, you might lose it, but it was the right person. I heard John and I jumped out of my seat. I didn't hear the last name. It could have been John Anybody, but I heard John and I knew it had to be the guy. The odds are in my favor. It was a great moment in my life, if not the greatest moment of my life."
Ifedi, who is listed at 6-foot-5, 325 pounds, played in an offensive system that was a lot different from what he will be asked to do in Seattle, but Cable, Schneider and Carroll all cited his aggressive attitude as one of his strongest traits, and Cable said he believes the distance from being a college player to NFL ready "is rather short" for Ifedi.
"You're talking about a big, big powerful guy with a lot of length," Cable said. "A little bit raw fundamentally, so there's some cleanup to do, but it's an easy fix, I think. But what I liked about him was that if there was an issue, this was a guy who fixed those kind of issues. So he's wired right, he's not about BS, he's about work. Terrific brain on him, I'm very excited… That distance for me to get him where he needs to be I think is rather short."
Carroll had talked in his pre-draft press conference about the challenges of evaluating college linemen who don't play in pro-style offenses, but like Cable, Carroll doesn't see Ifedi having a hard time with that adjustment.
"One of the issues is aggressiveness," Carroll said of evaluating linemen. "We don't see guys in the mode of coming off the football as much. This guy is a really aggressive football player. So it makes it more comfortable for us, makes it a little easier for us to understand. But some of the decisions are difficult. I know the style of the guy, he's got the nature that we're looking for, so I think it's going to work out great"
By trading back while still landing a first-round pick in the process, the Seahawks acquired an extra third-round pick, giving them four picks in Friday's second and third rounds, but still were able to make their first first-round pick since 2012.
"So this is what a first-round press conference looks like," Carroll joked as he and Schneider sat down to talk to the media.
Having a "first-round press conference" wasn't a given for Seattle, which fielded more offers for that 31st pick before taking Ifedi.
"It's got close a couple of times," Schneider said. "For some reason we're like a target, I guess."
The latter part of that comment was dripping in sarcasm, because Schneider is well aware that his team is known as one willing to move back in the draft to acquire additional picks. And by sticking to their M.O., Schneider and company added a third-round pick in a draft they feel has a lot of value in the middle rounds.
"It's huge for us picking three times in the third round," Schneider said. "We pick at 56 tomorrow, we have nine more picks, that's really exciting for us. We feel like it's a solid draft all the way through, so for us to be able to get Germain is a big deal… He's a great dude. He's a three-year starter, really tough, really competitive, gritty, smart, he's got his degree, just yearning for coaching, he's really going to add an attitude and toughness to our organization."
Added Carroll: "The way he plays is what was really important, because he's really physical, he likes to get after it, he mixes it up with you, and that style is really at home with us. So we're really excited to add that to our team."
Round 1 | Pick 31 | No. 31 overall: OT Germain Ifedi, Texas A&M
Round 2 | Pick 25 | No. 56 overall
Round 3 | Pick 27 | No. 90 overall
Round 3 | Pick 35 | No. 94 overall (from Denver)
Round 3 | Pick 35 | No. 97 overall*
Round 4 | Pick 26 | No. 124 overall
Round 5 | Pick 34 | No. 171 overall*
Round 6 | Pick 40 | No. 215 overall*
Round 7 | Pick 4 | No. 225 overall (from Dallas)
Round 7 | Pick 26 | No. 247 overall
- - Compensatory Pick (compensatory picks cannot be traded)
Seahawks select Germain Ifedi, tackle from Texas A&M with the 31st overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.