RENTON — Of all the players on the field as the Seahawks and Bears played out the final moments of a preseason game Thursday, all hoping to do something, anything, to impress their coaches, none might have been a more unlikely participant than receiver Kevin Kassis.
Last football season, Kassis — who had four catches for 37 yards to spur the Seahawks to their only TD of the game and on the doorstep of another in an eventual 27-11 loss — was living in Los Angeles, working for Alcon, selling contact lenses and contact-lens solution, his football career seeming like an increasingly distant memory.
“If you’d asked me a year ago, I wouldn’t think I’d be where I am now,’’ Kassis said Sunday.
Before the Seahawks’ preseason opener Aug. 13 at Pittsburgh, Kassis hadn’t played a football game since Dec. 21, 2019, while finishing his career at Montana State with a loss to North Dakota State in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs.
Kassis was in the middle of an eight-week training program for Montana State’s Pro Day when life shut down in March 2020 because of COVID-19. With no real ability to impress NFL scouts other than his MSU tape — he finished as the fourth-leading receiver in school history with 152 catches for 1,966 yards — he went unsigned following the draft. He decided to keep in shape just in case, but also decided to begin getting on with life, landing the job in L.A.
He held out hope of attending MSU’s Pro Day in 2021. But when that also was canceled, he figured football was over.
“At that point, I really had no intention of playing football again,’’ he said.
But as life began to get back to normal last fall, Kassis said, “I just had that itch to try to play again.’’
So last December, he said, “I gave up the job and gave up my lease [on his apartment]’’ and moved to the San Diego area to begin seriously training again. He admits not everyone around him thought it was the smartest move.
But Kassis, who is from El Dorado, California, had something of a hole card to play — a former Montana State teammate Troy Andersen, a linebacker, was being regarded as a potential high-round pick (he was eventually taken in the second round by Atlanta).
Andersen was going to work out at MSU’s Pro Day, and because of that it figured to be more heavily attended than usual.
“I decided to try to piggyback off him,’’ Kassis said.
Twenty teams sent reps for MSU’s Pro Day on April 5, and Kassis’ 4.53 40 and 36.5-inch vertical leap turned a few heads. The leap would have ranked ninth among all receivers at the NFL combine.
The Seahawks were among the teams who had scouts in attendance, and Kassis said he felt all along that “there was some interest from Seattle.’’
The Seahawks didn’t sign him immediately after the draft. But following the team’s rookie minicamp in May, they had Kassis in for a workout. He was signed on the spot May 13.
Kassis played just 11 snaps in the first preseason game against the Steelers. But he finally got his shot against the Bears, playing 29 snaps and tied for the team lead in receptions.
“It’s been a while since I’d played a game,’’ Kassis said. “It was just a blast to get back out there.’’
The outing impressed the Seahawks, with coach Pete Carroll saying Sunday: “We haven’t seen anything but really good stuff from Kevin. He’s got great hands, great catching range. He’s made as many spectacular catches as anybody out here maybe more than most. Yeah, more than most.”
With the Seahawks drafting two receivers in the seventh round (Bo Melton and Dareke Young) and a handful of other vets, making the 53-man roster out of camp is a longshot.
But Kassis could land on the practice squad and might have opened some eyes of other teams around the league.
All he wanted, he said, “was an opportunity’’ to try to keep his football career alive.
For now he appears to have done just that.
And if he couldn’t have imagined he’d be on an NFL roster a year ago, he now says he’s learned another universal truth. “Who knows where you will be a year from now?’’ Kassis said.
If nothing else, he’ll know he gave football his best shot.
- Carroll said there is no timetable for a return for rookie running back Ken Walker III, who had a procedure last week to repair a hernia injury (though not a sports hernia). “He’s still pretty tender,’’ Carroll said. “I was with him today, and he’s got some things to heal.”
- Rookie linebacker Boye Mafe sat out practice with a shoulder strain suffered in the loss to the Bears, and Carroll said he is unlikely to play this week.
- Starting left guard Damien Lewis left early in Thursday’s game with an ankle injury that initially appeared serious. But Carroll confirmed again that the Seahawks appeared to catch a break and Lewis might not miss much time. “It is kind of a basketball ankle sprain, so that is a really positive thing,’’ Carroll said. “It’s the swelling that he has to deal with. There are no torn ligaments or any of that stuff, so it doesn’t mean that he is immediately popping back, but it’s not going to be a long time. It’s like not a high ankle sprain that linger forever.”
- Receiver Dee Eskridge, the team’s first pick in the 2021 draft, practiced for the first time since the first training camp started July 27. Eskridge was still limited but did get on the field for some early work in offensive team sessions. “We finally got him on the practice field,’’ Carroll said. “He got hurt in the first 10-minutes of practice the first day. So, it’s the first time we got to see him. He worked really hard to get out there and we tried to ensure that once he’s out, he stays out.’’
- Carroll noted that the team began a shift in practice Sunday, devoting more work to starters and players who will be key contributors this year and less to evaluating and developing younger players. With the cutdown date to 53 coming next week: “The focus goes directly to the guys who are going to do all the playing,’’ Carroll said. “So, the scripts and the preparation of the practice and design is to make sure they are ready to go now.’’
- Sunday’s practice was the last that was open to the public.