he Seattle Seahawks marched to their first Lombardi Trophy in February with a chip on their shoulder.
They were the players nobody wanted.
Wide receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse both went undrafted out of college. Both signed with the Seahawks and each caught a TD pass in the Super Bowl victory over Denver.
Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith was a seventh-round draft pick, as was starting guard J.R. Sweezy. Pro Bowl defensive backs Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were both fifth-round picks and quarterback Russell Wilson a mere third-rounder.
Any NFL team could have had those players. No one wanted them except Seattle.
Jackson Jeffcoat is certainly headed to the right team to begin his NFL career.
Jeffcoat has the genes to be an NFL player. His father Jim was the author of 103 career sacks and owns a pair of Super Bowl rings from the Cowboys.
Jeffcoat also has the ability. He was a two-time all-state selection and a high school All-America at Plano West. He went to Texas where he became a three-year starter. His 60 career tackles for loss rank second in school history.
Jeffcoat was a team captain as a senior and the Big 12’s Defensive Player of the Year with his 13 sacks. He was the winner of the Hendricks Award as the best defensive end in college football and a consensus All-America.
Jeffcoat was projected to be drafted from the second through the fourth rounds by the NFL. He had no reason to doubt those projections. He had successfully completed his punch list as an NFL prospect. But the draft came and went, 256 names were called _ but no Jackson Jeffcoat.
At 6-3, 247 pounds, Jeffcoat lacked the prototypical size for an NFL edge pass rusher. And there were also health concerns. He missed 12 games over his first three seasons at Texas with three different injuries, although he did stay healthy all of 2013.
Even his hometown Cowboys, a team in dire need of pass rushers and in possession of five seventh-round selections, passed on Jeffcoat.
Talk about a chip on your shoulder.
“It’s no longer a chip,” said Jeffcoat in a telephone interview from Seattle last week. “It’s a boulder.”
One of the first calls Jeffcoat received after the draft was from Ken Norton Jr., who won Super Bowls playing on the same defense with Jim Jeffcoat in Dallas. Norton is now the linebacker coach of the Seahawks and a family friend.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll also got on the phone. Four years ago, Carroll and Norton tried unsuccessfully to recruit Jeffcoat out of high school to Southern Cal.
“When Coach Norton called me after the draft, I was mad and he could tell,” Jeffcoat said. “I think he liked that because this team likes players with a chip on their shoulder. I felt I should have been a first-rounder coming out. They told me they had undrafted guys come here and do well. That excited me.
“Then Coach Carroll told me they’d love to have me come out here and compete because I fit their scheme.”
Six other teams offered Jeffcoat free-agent contracts, but the Seahawks became an easy sell as the reigning Super Bowl champions. There also are openings along the defensive line. Starting ends Red Bryant and Chris Clemons became salary-cap casualties this off-season, and tackle Clinton McDonald left in free agency.
Jeffcoat will compete at weakside end, called “Leo” in the Seattle scheme. That’s a pass-rush spot, and the Seahawks place a premium on the pass rush. They finished eighth in the NFL last season with 44 sacks. That’s why signing Jeffcoat became a post-draft priority. He can rush the passer.
“It worked out better for me not being drafted,” Jeffcoat said. “I could choose the place I wanted to go. This is a good spot for me. I’m happy the way it all worked out.
“I grew up around the Cowboys when my dad was playing. So I know what a championship team looks like. By the way they work here, the way they approach things, in meetings, I can definitely see why this is a championship team.”
Seattle relies on a rotation up front to rush the passer. Seven linemen posted sacks last season and the two leading pass rushers, ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, didn’t even start.
The Seahawks can envision Jeffcoat making the team on ability and becoming a contributor based on his draft snub.
“That’s what was enticing about Seattle,” Jeffcoat said. “They see that chip you have and poke at it _ and keep poking at it to make it grow in a positive way. It becomes motivation to become better than you ever thought you could be.”
That chip on the shoulder worked for Sherman and Wilson. Now it can work for Jeffcoat.
Rick Gosselin is a columnist for The Dallas Morning News