RENTON — When Nick Bellore says he will do anything he can to help the Seahawks win this season, he means it (almost literally) more than most.
Bellore, a 30-year-old free-agent signing this offseason, is the rare NFL player who has considerable experience in all three phases of the game — offense, defense and special teams — and he has done all three in his first Seahawks training camp.
His roots are on defense. He was a standout middle linebacker at Central Michigan, and it was as a linebacker with the San Francisco 49ers in 2016 that he had his most productive NFL season, posting 77 tackles with one interception, one sack and one forced fumble in a career-high 10 starts.
The Seahawks, though, signed Bellore to be their new fullback. He has been the lone fullback on the Seattle roster in camp, and he had two catches for 10 yards in the Seahawks’ preseason opener against Denver last week.
And yet, Bellore knows his real value is elsewhere — on special teams. He worked on all four kickoff and punt teams in the preseason opener, and he’s been a special-teams ace wherever he’s been during his previous eight seasons in the NFL.
“My thing always has been special teams, first and foremost,” Bellore said. “I want to do anything for the team. I always thought I could be successful (as a fullback) if someone needed me to do it, in a pinch, which is initially how it started — just doing goal-line stuff — and it’s grown from there.
“You can only carry so many guys on the roster, so anything I can do to make myself a little bit more valuable helps.”
Bellore, 6 feet 1 and 250 pounds, has had what he called an “unconventional” career path. He signed with the New York Jets as an undrafted free agent in 2011, and he had already made a nice living as a full-time special-teamer and a part-time linebacker when, in 2017, Detroit turned to him as an emergency fill-in at fullback.
He played a mere 13 snaps on offense for the Lions that season, but did have one play called for him — a fullback-flat pass from Matthew Stafford on the goal line. It was the first and only pass thrown to Bellore that season, and he made a casual catch at the goal line for a 1-yard touchdown — the first and only TD of his career.
“It happened so fast, and you’re just so focused in the moment,” he recalled.
The third act of Bellore’s career, after defense and special teams, has been a welcome challenge.
“I love it. It’s fun, as an old dog, to learn new tricks,” he said of the transition to fullback. “Every day I feel like I’m learning something new about the intricacies of this offense and playing offensive football in general. … But it’s fun. It’s basically like playing linebacker, except your hands are inside and not outside. That’s the big difference. And we’ve got a great group of backs. It’s fun to block for those guys, because if you give them a window, they’re gone.”
The Seahawks signed Bellore in May to a two-year, $2.23 million deal, with $600,000 guaranteed. He played 11 snaps at fullback, out of 69 total plays from the Seahawks offense, in the first preseason game. (For the record, Tre Madden, the Seahawks’ fullback last season, played 86 total snaps in 14 games, or 8% of the team’s offensive plays, and 254 snaps on special teams, according to Pro Football Reference.)
During practice last week, Bellore filled in at linebacker when several other linebackers were sidelined with injuries. The Seahawks know he can help there if indeed. But as the lone fullback on the roster, and as one of the NFL’s most versatile players, Bellore will be counted on to help the team in multiple roles this season.
“He’s been great,” offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He doesn’t get a lot of reps out there all the time, but when he’s in there he’s always on top of his assignments. He’s a great what we call ‘problem-solver’ — he can see things. Whether it’s fixing a formation or helping a young back or even when there’s a certain front that he needs to make an adjustment on, you see the veteran savvy in Nick come out.”