The Seahawks were able to poach D.J. Fluker last March via a one-year, $1.5 million deal that's just a few hundred thousand north of the veteran minimum. But seven games in, it looks like they got a Hummer for the price of a Hyundai.
There was D.J. Fluker, all 77 inches and 342 pounds of him, dancing in the Seahawks’ locker room Sunday after a victory in Detroit.
It was joy personified, as the biggest man in the building flashed the biggest grin.
This was the feeling you got when several months of preparation with your teammates earned you the most impressive win of the season. It was also a feeling Fluker thought football might never bring him again.
Juxtapose that ecstasy with the agony he felt in March of 2017, when the Chargers — the team he’ll line up against Sunday — released him two days before his $8.8 million salary became guaranteed. Compare that elation to the anger he felt when writers galore dismissed him as a first-round bust.
The 11th overall pick in 2013, Fluker saw himself go from tackle to guard in two years, and then from Charger to free agent two years after that. The turbulence made him wonder: Was this really the life he wanted?
“I was going through a tough time. I just got released by a team I thought I would be with for a while. It took me to a place where I was like ‘Do I need to play football or not play football?'” said Fluker, who had told his agent he was considering walking away from the game. “I was seeing these guys getting deals and stuff like that and I’m like — ‘Shoot, I’m better than most of them’… I kind of had to reevaluate myself.”
Fluker thought it was unfair for people to expect him to be a productive guard right away when he hadn’t played the position before. He added that he didn’t feel like he could be himself in his final years in San Diego — in part because he thought some of his teammates didn’t care about football — and worried the vibe would be similar elsewhere.
Still, being just 25 at the time, he signed a one-year, $3 million contract with the Giants two Marches ago in hopes of reinvigorating his career. It didn’t go so well.
Less than a month into the season, Fluker told NJ.com that he held back tears after being a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. He’d end up playing nine games and starting six, but in the minds of most general managers, he didn’t revive his rep as a great player so much as he reaffirmed his rep as an expendable one.
That’s why the Seahawks were able to poach him last March via a one-year, $1.5 million deal that’s just a few hundred K north of the veteran minimum. But seven games in, it looks like they got a Hummer for the price of a Hyundai.
Fluker isn’t an example of someone who thrives because he can “block out the noise,” as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes to say. After being released by the Chargers, he found every article that dissed him and screenshot them on his phone. He proceeded to print those articles out and put them up in his room as a means of motivation before every workout.
Now, Fluker is the starting right guard for a team ranked second in the NFL in rushing since he entered the lineup in Week 3. So he can thank his critics for that.
But he probably won’t.
“I have people, guys, like — you’re sitting at home tweeting in your mom’s basement probably and you’re tweeting about me. Like, half of these guys never played a day of football in their life,” said Fluker, who is part of a line that Pro Football Focus ranked first in the league in pass-blocking efficiency from Week 3 to Week 6. “They’re probably pissed off (now) and are like ‘Oh, he’s doing great. I love him.’ But these are the same guys that were talking bad about me. I have no love for that.”
You might be tempted to dub Fluker surly after a couple of these quotes, but you’d be dead wrong if you did. Talk to Carroll or fellow linemen such as Duane Brown or J.R. Sweezy, and they’ll tell you he’s one of the most effervescent players on the team.
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The truth is, Fluker’s love for football has returned in full. As his team sits at 4-1 with him in the lineup, the golden-haired behemoth has been pancaking legends such as Rams nose tackle Ndamukong Suh. The man so massive that a masseuse once broke her wrist while working on him is on a team that entered Week 7 with the fewest pressures allowed on the season and only seems to be getting better.
No wonder he said on Wednesday that he’d like to be a Seahawk for life.
“This is like a college atmosphere. I feel like I’m still in college,” Fluker said of the Seahawks’ environment. “I’m like a big kid out here.”
So there you have it. In Seattle, Fluker has rediscovered his swagger, rediscovered his passion, and if he keeps doing what he’s been doing, should rediscover a long-term deal.
All he needs now is a nickname.
Hold on a sec … got it. Goldiblocks.