The veteran offensive tackle, who re-signed with the Seahawks prior to this season, has become a mentor to Ifedi since coming to Seattle a year ago.
The more time Duane Brown spent with Germain Ifedi after being traded to the Seahawks last October, the more he realized he was looking at a younger version of himself.
Not that the two needed any introduction.
They’ve known each other for about a decade, dating to when Brown was drafted in the first round in 2008 by Houston, Ifedi’s hometown.
Ifedi is nine years younger, but was at the time a rising, young high school offensive lineman, and the two often crossed paths working out, which continued through Ifedi’s years at Texas A&M.
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But seeing each other in the offseason is one thing. Being teammates and working together daily is another.
And as Brown began to take a really close look at Ifedi — a former first-round draft choice struggling to live up to the lofty expectations that come with that status — it hit him that Ifedi was walking the same path he once had.
Brown now is regarded as one of the best left tackles in the NFL, having made four Pro Bowls since 2012 and twice named either a first- or second-team All-Pro.
But Brown’s first few seasons were pockmarked with tough Sundays and long weeks realizing he had a lot to learn.
As Ifedi, Brown was a first-round selection (26th in 2008 out of Virginia Tech) thrown immediately into the starting lineup.
And as Ifedi, his early inconsistencies led some to wonder if he’d ever really find his way.
A 2011 story on an SBNation Houston Texans fan site began this way: “Once upon a time, many a Houston Texans fan speculated that left tackle Duane Brown was (a) a massive bust and (b) the worst left tackle in the NFL.’’
The story went on to detail that Brown had now “come a long way. In fact, he’s come such a long way that you have to jump to get there.’’
Brown’s maturation from struggling highly-touted rookie to proven vet is a story he has told Ifedi a few times now.
“I had a similar situation and that’s something I tried to relate to him,’’ Brown said. ”When I came in as a first-round pick, my first couple of years I had some growing pains and outside people were talking about the word bust.
“It’s just tough (the transition to the NFL). It’s just such a different league than college.’’
Six games might not be enough to prove Ifedi is truly ready to embark on the same career arc as did Brown, who won his first serious accolades in his fourth year in 2011 when he was named second-team All-Pro.
But there are some promising signs.
After leading the NFL in penalties last year with 20, Ifedi has four this season, all false starts (last year he had seven holding penalties with five enforced, fifth-most in the NFL).
And the past four games, few offenses in the NFL have run it as well as the Seahawks, who rank seventh in the league in rushing offense. The pass blocking also has improved dramatically. According to Pro Football Focus, no team in the NFL has allowed fewer pressures than the Seahawks (36). And this week, ESPN called Brown and Ifedi the fifth-best pass blocking tackle tandem in the NFL.
“He sees the game much better than he has at any other time,’’ coach Pete Carroll said this week of Ifedi. “I think he understands what’s expected of him and what’s expected of the schemes and he just has a better understanding and he’s more consistent at everything he’s doing.’’
Maybe Ifedi was ready to take a jump up this year anyway, with this his third season in the NFL and second at right tackle after spending his rookie season in 2016 playing right guard and with a new offensive line coach in Mike Solari, whose more-varied scheme appears to fit Ifedi’s talents better.
But Ifedi also is happy to give whatever credit for his improved play this season to Brown.
Carroll says Brown has undoubtedly had a major influence on Ifedi.
“It’s just good for him to have a guy who has been through it and is willing to share it,” Carroll said of Brown, who turned 33 in August and signed an extension before the season with Seattle that runs through the 2021 season.
On Wednesday, Ifedi recalled recently spending two hours after a practice one day talking to Brown “talking about stuff, ball and other things. And he’s always there for you. You text him, he’ll text you right back. … he’s just a steadying force. He just gives you a genuine perspective on how things are week in and week out.’’
Brown says his emphasis on Ifedi has been on how to prepare during the week and on game day, and how to deal with the inevitable rough patches, not getting too high or too low.
“The main thing I told him is ‘You have all the tools necessary to be successful,’’ Brown said. “It’s just all about your preparation and getting out of your own head. And I think he has been able to do that and it’s really benefited him this season so far.’’
Ifedi said before the season that he knew this was the year that “it’s time for me to take that step.’’
Brown’s influence on Ifedi might have been evident when Ifedi was asked this week if he feels he has begun to do that and prove himself to those who have questioned if he was worthy of a first-round choice.
“The only person I try to prove things to is myself,’’ Ifedi said. “I come here to do my job and play ball and I don’t have to prove the doubters wrong or the supporters right. I’m just setting my goals and doing the goals that I set and if I do that I will sleep well at night.’’
Brown, though, says he has no doubt the talk of being a bust and questions of his worth have hung over Ifedi.
And beginning to shed those labels and that proverbial weight, Brown says, is only helping Ifedi that much more.
“He’s being more confident,’’ Brown said. “You can just watch his body language, his demeanor. He’s finishing blocks, finishing plays. You can see him relaxing, joking around during the game. That’s something I didn’t see last year. He’s having a lot more fun this year and that’s what comes with success. I’m happy for him.’’