All Business, Undrafted Joey Blount Follows Assistant Coach's Footsteps Making Seahawks Roster – Sports Illustrated

RENTON, Wash. – Throughout the course of his entire football career, Joey Blount has been an underdog. Whether being lightly recruited out of Landmark Christian High School or bypassed completely in the pre-draft process last spring, he's used to being overlooked and counted out.
Over the past five years, few defenders equaled Blount's production starring at Virginia. Playing snaps at free and strong safety as a jack of all trades, he racked up 303 combined tackles, nine interceptions, 5.5 sacks, and 19 tackles for loss, stuffing the stat sheet in one of college football's premier conferences. Based on those numbers, he seemed destined to be an NFL draft pick.
But somehow, whether due to Cavaliers meddling records or the surplus of safety talent within the conference, Blount criminally flew under the radar. Despite surpassing 60 tackles and posting multiple interceptions in three separate seasons, he received All-ACC recognition only once as a Third-Team selection in 2019. After not even receiving honorable mention distinction as a senior, he wasn't invited to the NFL combine or any all-star showcase events.
"I'd be lying if I said I wasn't surprised," Blount said of not receiving a combine or all-star invite. "But I really believe it was all planned just for me to be here. It was a great five years and I left a lot of it on the field. And I absolutely wish that I got some more, you know, post career accolades."
However, time and time again, Blount has thrived – if not relished – carrying the underdog label. And, while he would have loved to receive more individual recognition for his excellence as he rightfully deserved, his unique path still allowed him to achieve his ultimate goal of making it in the NFL.
After starting parts of five seasons for the Cavaliers, the only ACC program that gave Blount a scholarship after a stellar prep career, the versatile safety proved his doubters wrong again. Though he found himself sweating it out on Monday mere days after the team's preseason finale, he became the latest in a long line of undrafted rookies to earn a spot on the Seahawks initial 53-man roster.
"It was stressful. Just kind of waiting around in limbo," Blount explained. "I was telling my parents kind of like a limbo, like a gray area where you're just trying to figure out where your place is. You're just kind of waiting to hear the Grim Reaper call your phone and you know, come see the coaches. But as time went on, and I didn't get a call, I was seeing guys next to me get calls and I wasn't gonna get a call. I didn't want to get too excited. But at the same time I was getting more confident in myself."
Joining one of Seattle's deepest position groups, a unit headlined by stars Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, few could have expected Blount would crash the party and earn a roster spot when he first signed with the team as a priority free agent in April. With experienced reserves Marquise Blair, Ryan Neal, and Josh Jones all returning behind Adams and Diggs, there didn't seem to be a place for an undrafted rookie unless a litany of injuries struck.
But behind the scenes, Blount quietly felt good about his chances, in part because of how he found his way to Seattle. During the weeks leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, assistant defensive backs coach DeShawn Shead, who carved out his own NFL career with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent signee and played for both of their Super Bowl squads in 2013 and 2014, went into recruiting mode hoping to lure the underrated defender to the Pacific Northwest.
"He reached out to me during the draft process, and just spoke to me from an undrafted standpoint that opportunities are here in Seattle," Blount said. "And that's something that I really resonated with… it doesn't matter if you're drafted or not, the opportunity's gonna be there. And he was really interested in me, invested in me. Some other people in the Seattle Seahawks organization reached out to me as well, just really invested and confident that I could do something here. That kind of just gave me more confidence in myself that this is the place I'm supposed to be."
While other teams reached out with interest in signing Blount after the draft, Shead's presence and the sale's job done by personnel members lauding the culture in Seattle made his decision an easy one.
Early on, Blount leaned heavily on Shead's expertise, constantly asking him questions and receiving "inside scoop" from a coach who took the same path less traveled aiming to carve out an NFL career. He also played the role of a sponge observing veteran safeties such as Neal and Jones during organized team activities. Once Adams and Diggs returned for minicamp, he tried to apply what he learned from them to his game as well.
Blount's background playing both safety positions at Virginia helped his cause in a defensive scheme aiming to make free and strong safety interchangeable. But as he knew coming in, special teams would ultimately be the difference maker that would make or break his chances of earning a roster spot and from the outset, he looked to make a strong impression in the third phase of the game.
"I think that's one of the messages that I was told before coming here, like special teams, special teams," Blount remarked. "And I played special teams in college. I know they're a big part of the game that are often overlooked and I thought that I could be an addition to the teams here."
Though Seattle's special teams as a whole struggled throughout the preseason, which drew the ire of coach Pete Carroll after a 27-11 preseason loss to Chicago, Blount stood out as one of the few bright spots. He recovered an onside kick late in that game, handing the football back to backup quarterback Jacob Eason with a chance to crawl within one score in the closing moments.
In three exhibition games, Blount finished with 12 tackles, including a pair on special teams, and allowed only two receptions for six yards in coverage. With the goal of playing on defense in the league down the road, he made his mark at safety in the Seahawks' finale, laying a big hit on Cowboys receiver Semi Fehoko on fourth down slant route to force a turnover on downs.
Catching the attention of Carroll, Shead, special teams coach Larry Izzo, and the rest of Seattle's coaching staff, Blount received a 78.8 defensive grade from Pro Football Focus, the highest among defenders who played in all three preseason games. His respectable 72.5 special teams grade ranked fifth on the team.
"I think that I just focused on the little things, things that you can control," Blount said of his performance. "Something coming in I told myself is I want to have elite effort just running to the ball, just kind of anything I can do to separate myself and the man next to me. And I think that's something that caught the coach's eyes."
When most rookies are asked about the toughest adjustment going from college to the NFL, the speed of the game or the complexity of a playbook emerge as the most frequent answers. But in Blount's case, while calling himself a social presence, adapting to football being a business with players cycling in and out of the locker room has proven to be the biggest change for him.
Warned about the camaraderie of an NFL locker room being far different than in college, Blount admitted on Thursday that he came into the league weary of the situation. But the coaching staff has provided the support necessary to adjust to that change and one line in particular from a guest speaker prior to Seattle's preseason opener in Pittsburgh has stuck with him as a reminder he's still playing a game albeit at much higher stakes.
"This is a child's game and they pay you a King's ransom," Blount recalled, indicating the line has been on his mind daily ever since.
While officially a member of the Seahawks with the regular season opener nearly one week away, even as he adjusts to the nature of football being a job, Blount understands the ruthless nature of the business. As Shead knows all too well from his own experience, others wired with similar DNA will undoubtedly be gunning for his job and his place is far from secure as a reserve safety. There's much work left to do to hold his spot.
Keeping that in focus, Blount isn't about to forget about how he got here, passed over for consideration by all-star games or the combine last spring. As he has done throughout his football career, he's going to use those slights as motivation and fuel for his personal fire, further embracing the underdog role he has grown accustomed to playing to ensure he sticks around for a long time.


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