RENTON — The call came from Estonia: Find 14, Jodi Heimgartner was instructed.
So there she was inside the merchandise tent at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Monday, trying to find a smaller size of a Seahawks No. 14 jersey.
The instructions had come from her son, Ian, who is studying international law at Tallinn University in Estonia. Ian is a devoted Seahawks fan, and when he heard his mom would be attending a training-camp practice, he asked her to buy the jersey of his new favorite Seahawk: DK Metcalf.
Jodi struck out. Outside of Russell Wilson’s No. 3, pro-shop employees said Metcalf’s No. 14 jersey has been the most popular during the first week of camp, with only large, extra large and extra extra large sizes available after practice Monday. (Jodi instead purchased a generic tanktop.)
Four practices into his first NFL training camp, Metcalf might already be the most-hyped rookie of the Pete Carroll era. And he continued to build on that hype Monday morning, making a couple highlight catches from Wilson during a seven-on-seven period — including a one-handed grab for a touchdown on a 40-yard pass. He had another short touchdown catch on a throw to his back shoulder.
Carroll joked the other day that he has a Metcalf jersey hanging in the coaches’ locker room, and Wilson declared the rookie has “Hall of Fame” potential.
Metcalf, a 21-year-old second-round draft choice out of Mississippi, is listed at 6 feet 4 and 229 pounds, and he ran a 4.33-second 40-yard dash at the NFL combine. He looks a little like LeBron James (that was Wilson’s description, anyway) and runs a little like Usain Bolt, and who the heck wouldn’t be excited about that combination?
But it is also fair to wonder if all the expectations thrown his way are … well, are they fair?
Is it too much, too soon?
And what might reasonable expectations be for a rookie receiver in the Seahawks offense?
Here, for reference, is what four notable Seattle receivers of the past decade did as rookies:
— Golden Tate (2010): 21 receptions (39 targets), 227 yards, 0 TDs
— Doug Baldwin (2011): 51 receptions (85 targets), 788 yards, 4 TDs
— Paul Richardson (2014): 29 receptions (44 targets), 271 yards, 1 TD
— Tyler Lockett (2015): 51 receptions (69 targets), 664 yards, 6 TDs
Metcalf on Monday was asked what expectations he has for his rookie season.
“I always expect highly of myself. … I’m always going to shoot for the stars,” he said.
He has tried to ignore the boiling hype out there but acknowledged that can be difficult.
“You know, I was a nobody at one point in my life,” he said, “so I’ve just got to keep that same mentality.”
Terrence Metcalf watched closely at Seahawks training camp and said he’s proud of how his oldest son has approached his first NFL season. The hype around DK, Terrence said, is nothing new: It was there at Oxford High School and it was there when DK decided to stay home and play for Ole Miss.
“You can hear it,” Terrence said, “but don’t get caught up in it. … He has heard the good and the bad, and he has sought advice in how to handle this, or, ‘Do you think I’m doing this too much?’ Things of that nature.”
Terrence was an All-American offensive lineman at Ole Miss who played seven seasons with the Chicago Bears from 2002-2008, and he and his wife Tonya raised their children around their Christian faith, he said. They were strict, and they made academics a priority.
“The No. 1 thing is he has understood his entire life is placement,” said Terrence, wearing an XXL No. 14 jersey. “Being the eldest son, he’s got siblings underneath him, and the responsibility is there. … In high school, he was getting all this (attention), but he was always responsible and he gave us the opportunity to parent how we parented, you know.
“Even in college, you get people talking — negative, positive, whatever — still he was seeking advice from Mom and Dad. Now, on this level, you’ve always heard it your whole life, so you know how to put stuff in the proper priority.”
DK said he was grateful to grow up around the game, and glad to have his father around training camp this week (accompanied by DK’s younger brother, Daylin, and cousin Terrence Humphrey).
“He didn’t push me on this path. I found it myself,” DK Metcalf said. “It was a big plus having him around, to be around it growing up and having the chance to go to a Super Bowl (in 2007) and get to live that experience.
“But now it’s time for me to make my own way.”
Terrence Metcalf is confident in how his son will handle the growing expectations. And as everyone else, Dad is eager to see what’s in store for his rookie season.
“He’s worked his butt off in the classroom, understanding what he needs to do when he gets on the field,” Terrence said. “And you see it show up once he gets here on the field. He’s a competitive kid. That’s the No. 1 thing. I don’t take anything away from anybody — all these guys are pros — but (he’ll be OK) as long as he continues to compete and bust his butt in there and treat people right and stay humble.”