When you’re talking to Seahawks guard D.J. Fluker, don’t worry so much about technical detail. Just enjoy the ride. Listen to him talk about how he couldn’t play Pop Warner football when he was a kid because he was too big.
“I was like 6-foot, maybe like 280 pounds. I was probably like 10, maybe.”
Ask him what it was like being a giant as a youngster.
“I mean, it was tough to find shoes, man. I wasn’t too much worried about being big. It was trying to find clothes that stay on my back. I think shoes was the hardest part for me. I was wearing like a size 16 in the ninth grade. I’ve got to find somewhere to eat, you know?”
But if you’re looking for insight as to how he resurrected his career with the Seahawks, or how Seattle offensive line coach Mike Solari found something in him that previous coaches overlooked, you might not get a Belichick-esque breakdown.
At least not Monday.
A few minutes before Fluker took the podium after Seattle’s latest training-camp practice, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll praised the behemoth’s spirit.
He said there is never a moment in which he isn’t exuding energy, which is tough for a man standing 6 feet 5, 342 pounds. But then Carroll was asked about Fluker’s career revival in Seattle — how a man who was a healthy scratch with the Giants two years ago now is shining for one of the better O-lines in the league.
Pete went right to offensive line coach Mike Solari.
“I don’t know, I think Mike’s time with D.J. really enhanced our look at him and outlook and understanding him,” Carroll said. “Mike knew who he was and what he’s all about and he’s exactly on it. He’s been a great addition to our club. I hope D.J. feels like he found himself a little bit.”
It wasn’t long ago that Fluker wondered if he would ever play football again. The Chargers released him just before his $8.8 million salary became fully guaranteed in 2016. Then, the former first-rounder lost his starting spot in New York. Then, he signed with Seattle last season and became a key component on the top rushing team in the league.
So what did Solari find in him?
“The thing about me is I play with passion. I got some dog in me, some heart in me, in other words,” said Fluker in response to that question. “On Sundays, I play with passion, I play with toughness, I play with a little bit of grit. You’ve got to be able to let defensive linemen know ‘Hey, I’m here for 60 minutes.'”
Right … but the coaching staff. What did they uncover that previous staffs might not have?
“The thing about me is that, I play with heart. You can’t find that, not in most guys,” Fluker said. “Whether hurt, or indifferent, I’m going to play every Sunday, that’s how I see it. I play for my teammates, I play for the people that watch us across the world, that’s what it’s about it, and I play for my kids.”
OK, no need for a third attempt. And it was loud at the VMAC on Monday, so maybe the questions didn’t smoothly reach those ears standing 77 inches above the ground. It doesn’t really matter anyway. How Fluker answers a question is inconsequential compared to how he performs on the field.
With Doug Baldwin out of the Seahawks receiving corps, it’s possible this team will rely even more on the run this season than last. Which means Fluker might have to evolve from rejuvenated to flat-out excellent all the while staying healthy.
Figuratively, his shoes would be tough to fill. Literally, almost impossible.