NFL teams may have had some questions about Jake Curhan’s heart heading into the draft.
But they were solely of the medical kind, not of the metaphorical.
“He has that special kind of spirit about him,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “Kind of that competitiveness, you know?’’
It’s true that Carroll may have, well, an especially soft spot in his heart for Curhan, who signed last week with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent after spending the last four seasons playing right tackle for the Cal Bears.
Like Carroll, Curhan is a graduate of Redwood High in Larkspur, California, in Marin County (about 16 miles north of San Francisco). And Carroll’s comment about Curhan’s “special kind of spirit” was said, Carroll made clear, with Redwood High in mind.
“We haven’t (sung) the fight song together yet, but maybe we’ll get a chance to do that before long,’’ Carroll said Saturday.
But it wasn’t just Curhan’s high-school lineage that caught Carroll’s eye.
The Seahawks think they are getting something of a steal in signing Curhan as a free agent.
Curhan fell out of the draft, due in part — as reported by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network — to medical tests that “revealed a heart issue.’’ Specifically, according to Rapoport, “an inconsistent EKG (that) led to more tests.’’ Rapoport stated Curhan would likely have been a sixth- or seventh-round pick otherwise.
In a Zoom interview Sunday, Curhan said the heart issue is not new.
“It’s something I’ve known about for some time,” he said, though he did not detail what it is. “And it’s not something that has ever caused me to have any issues working out or playing. … It’s kind of unfortunate that it got tweeted out like that and ended up working out that way, but it’s not something I’m too concerned about.’’
Carroll said Curhan has “a back issue that he was dealing with’’ that the Seahawks “will have to take care of and look after him throughout the process because it has been something he’s dealt with over time. But we felt like we could manage it and that’s what we’re trying to do now.’’
Without those two issues Curhan thinks he would have been drafted.
“Going into the draft because of that and some other stuff, I had a pretty good idea that that outcome was going to be what happened,” he said. “It’s unfortunate, but I’d rather have that be the outcome because of things I can’t control than things that I could.”
Indeed, Curhan appeared to do what he could to help his stock at — where else? — the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, in late January.
The Seahawks have mentioned Senior Bowl performances as being pivotal in their decisions on a number of draftees over the years, including this year’s picks of receiver Dee Eskridge and cornerback Tre Brown.
Curhan also played in this year’s game, getting some time at guard instead of the right tackle spot where he started 40 games at Cal.
“They threw me in there just to see how I would do on the inside and if I could do it,’’ Curhan said.
The Pro Football Network gave this assessment of Curhan at the Senior Bowl: “Curhan showed potentially underrated athleticism at 6-foot-6, 323 pounds, and his length also gives him utility in the trenches.’’
And the trenches appear to be where the Seahawks see Curhan best fit, as well — he lined up primarily at right guard during rookie minicamp last weekend though he will continue to get some snaps at tackle.
Curhan concurred with what most say who make the switch from tackle to guard. “Everything happens a lot faster inside,’’ he said.
But he said it helps that there are a lot of similarities between the offense he ran at Cal and what the Seahawks do.
“It’s a new challenge,’’ said Curhan, who also has to wear a new number, 74, since the 71 he wore at Cal isn’t available. “It’s a new thing to learn and I’m excited to get working on it.’’
Guard may also be a better avenue to a spot on the 53-man roster. Curhan said he had “a good amount’’ of teams interested but chose the Seahawks in part because they drafted only one other offensive lineman, tackle Stone Forsythe in the sixth round.
“I felt like it was a good opportunity for me to show how I can help the team,’’ he said.
The Seahawks are set with starting guards in Gabe Jackson and Damien Lewis, expected to play on the right and left sides, respectively. But of the backups, only Jordan Simmons, who started six games last year and has nine career starts, has much experience.
What didn’t really factor in, Curhan said, is the alma mater he shares with Carroll.
Carroll may be the most famous Redwood High graduate with NFL connections. But Curhan has a chance to one-up him by making it to the NFL as a player. Carroll played defensive back at the University of the Pacific; he did not play professionally.
In fact, only two Redwood High grads have played in the NFL — defensive back Tony Plummer with three teams from 1970-74, and former Seahawk tight end Cooper Helfet from 2012-15.
If nothing else, Curhan and Carroll won’t lack for things to talk about during the dog days of training camp.
“He called me the day after draft day and we had a nice little conversation about Marin things,’’ Curhan said. “Coach Carroll is a big fan of Mount Tam (Tamalpais, the mountain that overlooks Redwood High).’’