Carson has gone from a "who's he?'' draft pick in April 2017 to a "who's who'' list of Seahawks tailbacks on Sunday.
Chris Carson joined a rather exclusive Seahawk fraternity Sunday when he topped the 1,000-yard mark, becoming just the sixth player in team history to do so.
The other five are basically a who’s who of Seattle running backs — Curt Warner, Chris Warren, Ricky Watters, Shaun Alexander and Marshawn Lynch.
Carson now has 1,029 yards, the first to top the 1,000-yard mark since Lynch in 2014 and just the 21st 1,000-yard season in team history.
It’s heady territory for a second-year player who was a seventh-round pick in 2017 out of Oklahoma State, more of a “who’s he?’’ at the time he was drafted than the “who’s who’’ he has become.
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Carson, though, said he never doubted it was possible.
“I always believed in myself, no matter what,’’ Carson said Wednesday. “It didn’t matter where I got drafted or who I got drafted by. I had my goals coming into the season and going into my NFL career. Being a 1,000-yard rusher was definitely one of them.’’
It wasn’t going to happen, though, unless Carson could solve one vexing problem — how to stay on the field for a full season.
It was something he’d had trouble doing throughout his career dating to an ACL tear in high school that derailed a plan to attend home-state school Georgia and meant he had to attend a junior college for two years instead.
He later suffered a broken thumb while at Oklahoma State that cost him four games as a senior and limited him to 559 yards — and contributed to him entering the draft regarded as a late-round pick, at best.
And then there was the high ankle sprain and broken bone in his leg suffered just four games into his rookie season a year ago.
All of which means that while the 1,000 yards gained is an impressive number for Carson, the more meaningful one may be the 228 carries — more than Carson had in any college or varsity high school season and the most for any Seahawk since Lynch’s 280 in 2014.
That the injuries were varied and freak enough meant there was only so much Carson could do to try to prevent them in the future
But whatever Carson could do, he vowed this offseason, he would do.
Specifically, Carson decided to vary his workout routine some, venturing away from his native Atlanta area to also spend some of the offseason in Seattle.
“I did a lot more pool and resistance work instead of lifting heavier weight,’’ Carson said. “Usually back home in Atlanta I do a lot of heavy lifting and now I kind of stayed out here for a little bit and did a lot of resistance and pool work.’’
Carson said the difference has been noticeable during the season.
“Just being conditioned with more small parts of my body like ligaments and muscles inside versus the muscles outside and just being able to withstand a lot more physical contact than I could last year,’’ he said.
Carson also put on about 10 pounds in the process. It was that weight gain that initially drew the notice of coach Pete Carroll back in the spring.
And for those who roll their eyes at coaches lauding players in the spring for returning to the team in their best shape ever, it’s worth remembering now that Carson was the first player Carroll mentioned after the team’s first organized team activity in May.
“What has really jumped out is Chris Carson,’’ Carroll said then. “Chris has looked incredible the whole time, the entire offseason. He hasn’t missed one snap of anything. He just looks so fit, he’s just so cut and quick and explosive and all that. He might be the guy, when you look at everybody, who jumps out in that regard.”
Some wondered at the time if Carson was motivated by the team’s selection of Rashaad Penny in the first round, a pick that seemed designed in part to make sure the team would have a healthy running back at all times.
Carson has always said no — he just wanted to be the best that he could be.
But Carson doesn’t deny that he felt pushed by the tailback room as a whole.
“Coming back here and training with the guys and having such a competitive running back room all going at it hard with each other, it’s just making us all better in the long run,’’ Carson said.
Which has helped Carson prove he can handle the long haul.
Seattle’s season seemed dead in the water when the Seahawks lost in Week 2 at Chicago to fall to 0-2, a game after which Carroll infamously said Carson got just six carries (for 24 yards) because he looked “gassed’’ on the sidelines.
He was fully fueled the next week, getting 32 carries against Dallas, gaining 102 yards in a 24-13 win, a victory that we now know turned Seattle’s season around, setting the run-first template that led to nine wins in the last 13 games and a playoff berth.
Carson has missed two games since then with hip injuries.
But as Seattle has cruised into the playoffs over the last two months, Carson has been leading the way on the ground with the kind of durability that was a question when he entered the league — he has 13 or more carries in each of the last six games, gaining 532 yards on 117 carries, or 88.6 yards per game on 19.5 attempts.
The 117 carries Carson has in the last six games is as many as any Seattle tailback had in either of the last two full seasons.
“Chris hasn’t had that many years in the last four or five years where he’s been able to make it though and been healthy the whole time,’’ Carroll said after Sunday’s game. “If you remember, I told you guys, he was the most well-conditioned guy that showed up when we returned in April. There was nobody that was more fit. Nobody was more ready for the work. I don’t know how he did it, but he’s just unbelievable, that commitment that he has, and it carried through the whole season.”