McGrath was happy just to appear in a couple NFL games with the Seahawks last year. Now he has a chance at a more solid spot in the team's lineup.
It’s a cruel reality of football that one man’s misfortune is another man’s opportunity.
So it is for Seahawks tight end Sean McGrath, who is now just one of two players at that position for Seattle who have played in an NFL regular-season game after Anthony McCoy went down last week with an Achilles injury.
McCoy, who projected to again back up and complement starter Zach Miller, is likely out for the season.
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That leaves McGrath battling with fifth-round draft pick Luke Willson for the role as second tight end.
“All of the tight ends feel horrible about what happened to Anthony,” McGrath said this week. “It’s kind of the nature of the game. But we are keeping him in our thoughts and hoping for a fast recovery.
“It doesn’t really change my role as far as coming in. I might get a few more reps but I am always trying to push the person in front of me and making plays and blocking and doing whatever they tell me to.”
McGrath did that well enough last season to go from undrafted free agent out of Henderson State in Arkansas to earning a spot on the active roster for the last two regular-season games, getting on the field for eight snaps in wins over the 49ers and Rams.
“That first time running out that tunnel, it is exhilarating,” he said. “There is no other feeling that has yet to top it.”
It also fulfilled a dream. As a third grader in Chicago, when he was asked as part of a school project what he wanted to be when he grew up, McGrath wrote artist. The following year, he said he wanted to play in the NFL.
He’s ended up fulfilling both goals, having earned a degree in studio art with an emphasis in sculpture. Since he has been in Seattle, he has also taken a few figure-drawing courses.
“I’m trying to get a little bit of the culture out here,” he said.
Mostly, though, he’s trying to carve out a role with the Seahawks.
The 6-foot-5, 247-pound McGrath admits he was threatening to throw away his football dreams when he was dismissed from the team at Eastern Illinois in 2008.
“I had a little bit too much fun there,” he said.
Some coaching connections led him to Division-II Henderson State in Arkadelphia, Ark., where McGrath says “I found my way.”
His size and footwork — which he credits to having a grandmother who was a dancer — intrigued NFL scouts, as did his long-snapping ability. A foot injury that caused him to miss seven games as a senior, though, helped cause him to go undrafted.
He signed with the Seahawks and spent the 2012 season on something of a roller coaster — he was placed on the practice squad, cut, re-signed to the practice squad, and cut again, and then re-signed.
Finally, he got the call to the 53-man roster for the late-season home game against the 49ers after the team cut Evan Moore, a contest for which his parents had already planned to be in town.
“I was just waiting on my moment,” he said. “There is nothing you can really do but push the defense and give them a good look on the scout team. But it speaks volumes to this organization that they go in-house to take a guy who has been on the practice squad and move him up and trust him to make the right decisions to play on the field and to play on Sundays.”
The injury to McCoy proved again that there are zero guarantees in football. But for now, McGrath is right where he hoped he’d always be, fighting for a spot on an NFL roster.
“I’ll play whatever will stick me to the 53-man (roster),” he said. “Special teams, blocking, catching — the more versatile you can be in this business, the longer you will stick around.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.