Earlier this season, Tyler Mabry turned to his quarterback for inspiration.
“What,” Mabry asked Geno Smith, “kept you going?”
There is perhaps no greater example of patience and persistence in the NFL today than Smith, who waited eight years before finally get a second chance at a starting QB job with the Seahawks this season.
Mabry, bouncing on and off the Seahawks practice squad the past two seasons, waived and released on four different occasions, needed some advice.
“I remember … we were in the sauna,” Smith said, “and I was just talking to him like, ‘Hey man, you gotta keep working, you gotta keep working. You never know; you never know when you’ll get your shot.’”
Mabry, a 26-year-old tight end, finally got his shot on Sunday and turned his first NFL catch into his first touchdown during a 23-6 victory over the New York Jets that kept alive the Seahawks’ playoff hopes going into the final week of the regular season.
Mabry ran a simple 5-yard hitch route, turned and caught a pass from Smith at the Jets’ 2-yard line and dived over the goal line as he was being tackled for a 7-yard score early in the second quarter. He immediately leapt to his feet and performed a dance routine, smacking both of his hips as if he was riding a horse.
“It’s a new dance these kids have been doing on TikTok. I want to stay young,” Mabry said with a laugh. “I was practicing in my head: ‘If I score, this is what I’m going to do.’ And it happened.”
Teammates immediately gathered around Mabry for an end zone celebration, about as excited as they’ve been for any touchdown in any game this season.
“It was wild,” Mabry said. “I didn’t expect all that.”
Smith was one of the first to greet Mabry in the end zone.
“He’s a guy who’s worked his butt off, stayed in it,” Smith said. “He’s a consummate professional. Great teammate. And I’m just happy to see him get that done today.”
Mabry, signed as an undrafted free agent out of Maryland in 2020, was elevated from the practice squad for the first time this season to be the Seahawks’ third tight end after Will Dissly was put on injured reserve with a knee injury last week. Before Sunday, Mabry had played 22 snaps on offense in his career, across eight games in 2021.
Mabry kept the football he caught for the touchdown and plans to give it to his father, Robert, as a birthday present next month.
“Just keep the faith that no matter what it’s going to happen,” Mabry said. “The only thing I told myself was, ‘As long as I give my best, that’s all that matters.’ … I’m blessed and I’m thankful. I’m going to stay ready if I get elevated again. And no matter what happens, I’m going to embrace my role.”
Even without Dissly, the Seahawks had a productive day from all three tight ends.
Colby Parkinson, on the third play of the game, caught a 12-yard touchdown pass from Smith for the second TD catch of his career. He finished with a career-high five catches (for 36 yards) on seven targets. Noah Fant added two catches for 40 yards, including a 29-yard reception in the first quarter.
“It was really important,” coach Pete Carroll said. “We needed them today.”
Beyond Mabry, the Seahawks got contributions from several other bottom-of-the-roster players.
Receiver Cade Johnson, a practice-squad player the past two seasons, was elevated for Sunday’s game and played the most snaps of his career.
Xavier Crawford nearly blocked a punt in the first half, forcing a short kick in the process.
Tanner Muse had two tackles and one pass defensed in the second half after replacing injured middle linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who left with what appears to be a significant knee injury.
Stone Forsythe, a 2021 sixth-round draft pick, made his first career start at right tackle in place of injured rookie Abraham Lucas and drew praise from Carroll afterward.
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