RENTON — There was some true teamwork involved in the naming of Cassius Marsh, a defensive lineman taken by the Seahawks in the fourth round of the NFL draft last weekend.
Marsh’s dad is a boxing fan, whose favorite fighter was Muhammad Ali, known originally as Cassius Clay. His mother liked the name because in Greek it means strength.
Marsh says from the first day “I can really remember” he knew that “I’ve had a special name, and a name to live after.”
Something, he said, he’s never considered a burden.
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“Oh man, if you can’t live up to the pressure, what’s the point of being here?,” Marsh said.
Not a bad attitude to have for a rookie trying to make the roster of the defending Super Bowl champs.
The team hopes that Marsh, from UCLA, will ultimately fit the preferred template of being able to play multiple positions on the line. For now, he is playing primarily defensive end in a fashion similar to Michael Bennett.
And through two rookie minicamp practices — the team has 59 players on hand for three workouts this weekend — he’s looked the part.
“He’s a real natural pass rusher,” coach Pete Carroll said. “You can see he has really good hands and has a good feel for it.”
While named after one of the most famous boxers of all time, Marsh credits a training regimen for a different style of fighting — Mixed Martial Arts — as one reason for those fast hands.
Marsh said while during his UCLA years he often went through MMA-style workouts with Jay Glazer, a broadcaster for FOX Sports who also does some training on the side. Marsh says of those workouts that “my hands developed a lot. But I’ve always kind of had some natural ability when it comes to that. I know the importance of it on the defensive line so I’ve always worked it as much as I can.”
UCLA coach Jim Mora showed enough faith in those hands that he used Marsh at times as a tight end. Marsh caught two touchdown passes while at UCLA, one coming on a 2-yarder in the Bruins’ win over Washington last November.
Carroll has said the Seahawks might even consider using Marsh in a similar role with the Seahawks, something Marsh said he would embrace.
“There’s nothing like getting a sack, but a touchdown is like 1B,” said Marsh, whose father, Curtis, played receiver from 1995-97 with the Jaguars and Steelers.
Marsh, though, knows his real ticket to NFL success is on defense.
The Seahawks list him at 6-4, 254 pounds, but he weighed 300 pounds during his first season at UCLA, when he was used primarily inside. He decided to lose weight and become quicker, moving primarily to end.
Now he hopes to split the difference, hoping to get into the 270 range or so to better handle NFL offensive linemen and play inside and out.
Tyler Ramsey, who scouted Marsh for the Seahawks, said the team liked that Marsh was able to play well at several different weights.
“He can do anything, and it’s pretty cool that he can shape his body however he wants,” Ramsey said.
After minicamp ends Sunday, Marsh will return to UCLA to finish up some classes before returning to full-time NFL duty in a few weeks.
Marsh, though, “I’m sad that I have to leave” and that Seattle already feels like home.
And the way the Seahawks see it, he has a more than fighting chance to make it a permanent one.
• Second-round pick Paul Richardson, a receiver who was the team’s first selection in the draft, did not participate Saturday. The team said only it was for precautionary reasons. Richardson tumbled awkwardly to the turf after a collision on the last play of Friday’s practice.
• Richardson’s absence and injuries to two others meant Seattle had just four receivers. And that meant a lot of catches for Kevin Norwood, the team’s fourth-round pick, who caught a number of passes from former UW QB Keith Price. “It was busy,” Norwood said. “It was good for us because we got more work, and we got a lot of reps and it allows us to come out and stay focused on what we have to do to get better.”
• Rookie minicamp concludes with one more practice Sunday morning.