All Business, Undrafted Joey Blount follows in the assistant coach’s footsteps and creates the Seahawks roster
RENTON, Wash. — Throughout his football career, Joey Blount has been an underdog. Whether he was recklessly recruited by Landmark Christian High School or completely bypassed in last spring’s preliminary draft process, he’s used to being overlooked and counted out.
In the past five years, few defensemen have matched Blount’s performance with Virginia. A jack of all trades, he snapped at free and strong safety, accumulated 303 combined tackles, nine interceptions, 5.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss, and topped the stats list in one of college football’s premier conferences. Based on those numbers, he appeared destined to be an NFL draft pick.
But somehow, whether due to Cavaliers meddling with records or the excess security talent within the conference, Blount criminally flew under the radar. Despite surpassing 60 tackles and releasing multiple interceptions in three different seasons, he only earned All-ACC recognition as a third-team selection once in 2019. After not even receiving an honorable mention 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 think it was all planned just for me to be here. It’s been a great five years and I’ve left a lot of it on the field. “
Time and time again, however, Blount has found success — if not enjoyed — wearing the underdog label. And while he would have liked to receive more individual recognition for his excellence than he rightly deserved, his unique path still allowed him to achieve his ultimate goal of making it to the NFL.
After starting chunks of five seasons for the Cavaliers, the only ACC program that awarded Blount a scholarship following a stellar prep career, the all-round security once again proved his doubters wrong. Despite breaking a sweat Monday just days after the team’s preseason finals, he became the latest in a long line of undrafted rookies to earn a spot in the Seahawks’ initial 53-man roster.
“It was stressful. I was just kind of hanging around in limbo,” Blount explained. “I explained it to my parents like in a limbo, like a gray area where you’re just trying to figure out where your place is. You’re just waiting for the grim reaper to call your phone and you know, come see the trainers. But as time passed and I didn’t get a call, I saw guys next to me getting called and I wouldn’t get a call. I didn’t want to get too upset, but at the same time I became more confident.”
Joining one of Seattle’s deepest position groups, a unit headed by stars Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams, few would have expected Blount to crash the party and earn a spot on the list when he was in the April first signed with the team as a priority free agent. With veteran reserves Marquise Blair, Ryan Neal and Josh Jones all returning behind Adams and Diggs, there seemed no room for an undrafted rookie unless there was a litany of injuries.
But behind the scenes, Blount was quietly feeling good about his chances, in part because he’d found his way to Seattle. In the weeks leading up to the 2022 NFL Draft, assistant defensive backs coach DeShawn Shead, who embarked on his own NFL career with the Seahawks as an undrafted free-agent signee and played for both Super Bowl rosters in 2013 and 2014, entered draft mode hoping to lure the underrated defender to the Pacific Northwest.
“He reached out to me during the design process and just spoke to me from a non-contracted point of view that there are opportunities here in Seattle,” Blount said. “And that’s something I really resonate with … it doesn’t matter if you get drafted or not, the opportunity will be there. And he was really interested in me, invested in me. Some other people at the Seattle Seahawks organization have reached out to me as well, just really invested and confident that there is something I can do here. It kind of gave me more confidence that this is where I should be.
While other teams were interested in signing Blount post-draft, Shead’s presence and the sales work done by staffers who praised Seattle culture made his decision an easy one.
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Early on, Blount relied heavily on Shead’s expertise, constantly asking him questions and receiving “inside information” from a coach who was following the same, less traveled path to build an NFL career. He also played the role of a sponge observing security veterans like Neal and Jones at organized team activities. When Adams and Diggs returned to minicamp, he tried to apply what he learned from them to his game.
Blount’s background, playing both safety positions in Virginia, helped his cause in a defensive scheme aimed at making free and strong safety interchangeable. But he knew that special teams would ultimately make the difference that would make or break his chances of a roster spot, and from the start he wanted to make a strong impression in the third period of the game.
“I think that’s one of the messages that was given to me before I came here, like special teams, special teams,” Blount noted. “And I played on special teams in college. I know they’re a big part of the game that’s often overlooked and I thought I could be an asset to the teams here.”
Though Seattle’s special teams struggled throughout preseason, angering coach Pete Carroll after a 27-11 preseason loss to Chicago, Blount stood out as one of the few bright spots. He recovered from an onside kick late in that game and handed the ball off to backup quarterback Jacob Eason with a chance to crawl within a point 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 from cover. Aiming to play defensive end later in the league, he made a safe impression in the Seahawks Finals, hitting Cowboys receiver Semi Fehoko a big hit on the fourth sloping route to force a turnover in the downs.
Blount caught the attention of Carroll, Shead, special teams coach Larry Izzo and the rest of the Seattle coaching staff, and earned a 78.8 defensive rating from Pro Football Focus, the highest among defensemen who played in all three games last season . His respectable grade of 72.5 special teams placed fifth on the team.
“I think I just focused on the little things, things that you can control,” Blount said of his performance. “I told myself I want to put in an elite performance by just running to the ball, just anything I can do to separate myself and the man next to me. And I think that’s something the coach noticed.”
When most beginners are asked about the toughest transition from college to the NFL, the most common answers are speed of the game or the complexity of a playbook. But in Blount’s case, who describes himself as a social presence, the biggest change for him has proved to be his getting used to football being a business with players running in and out of dressing rooms.
Blount warned that camaraderie in an NFL locker room is very different than it is in college, and admitted Thursday he came to the league tired of the situation. But the coaching staff has provided the support necessary to adapt to this change, and a line from a guest speaker ahead of Seattle’s preseason opener in Pittsburgh in particular has stuck with him as a reminder that he’s still playing a game, albeit at much higher stakes .
“It’s child’s play and they’ll pay you a ransom for the king,” Blount recalled, indicating he’s thought of the line daily since.
Though he’s officially a member of the Seahawks and the regular season opener is almost a week away, Blount understands the ruthless nature of the business even as he adjusts to the nature of football as a job. As Shead knows all too well from his own experience, others with similar DNA will no doubt shoot for his job, and his place as backup security is far from secure. There is still work to be done to keep his place.
Blount keeps that in focus and won’t forget how he got here and was left unconsidered by All-Star Games or the Combine last spring. As he has done throughout his football career, he will use those slights as motivation and fuel for his personal fire, continuing to embrace the outsider role to which he has become so accustomed.
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