As approximately 25 area draft prospects took part in a local combine being held by the Seattle Seahawks, they didn't need to look far for inspiration.
For the most part, players taking part in these local combines held by NFL teams aren't the top prospects invited to Indianapolis for the NFL scouting combine; they're not the players showing up in the first round of mock drafts. But as local draft hopefuls went through drills at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center Wednesday, Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams were among the spectators on the sideline, two current NFL players who also took part in the Seahawks' local combine in recent years.
Smith and Williams, both former University of Washington receivers, were at this event in 2014 and 2015, respectively, and while the Seahawks didn't draft either player, they did end up eventually signing both, and after spending time on Seattle's practice squad, both finished the 2015 season on the active roster. Former Husky Jermaine Kearse, now a starter for the Seahawks, also went from the local combine at the VMAC to an eventual roster spot with Seattle.
"Everybody's path is different, everybody's journey to the NFL is different," said Smith, who appeared in seven games for the Seahawks last season, starting one. "No matter how you make it, it's how you finish… There are different ways you can make your way in the NFL, that doesn't matter. It's your desire and heart and faith and what you make of the opportunity when you get there."
NFL teams are allowed to host combines for draft-eligible players who either attended college or are from the team's metropolitan area, which for the Seahawks primarily means University of Washington prospects and players who went to high school in the Puget Sound region. And even if a player who was on the field Wednesday doesn't get drafted, the Seahawks could look to sign that player after the draft, or bring him in as a tryout player for rookie minicamp, which is a route Williams went last year, and the path other players like like Justin Veltung and Donny Lisowski took toward earning eventual roster spots in training camp in past years.
"I thought it was extremely important for me to get out here," Williams said of his local combine experience last year. "Home team, I went to UW, I'd been playing all my football in Seattle, so I knew they knew something about me. At the time, where I was going to play was still iffy—I hadn't been getting a lot of calls—so I just had to make sure I took advantage of the opportunity, and they gave us a good opportunity."