The Seattle Seahawks and their new regime addressed their biggest and most urgent needs by selecting All-American left tackle Russell Okung from Oklahoma State with the sixth overall choice in the NFL draft, then Texas All-American safety Earl Thomas at No. 14 overall.
“Today was a good day!!!” new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll posted on his Twitter page Thursday evening. The coach then linked to an Ice Cube rap song that recites the same words.
Carroll and new general manager John Schneider’s first strike Thursday in rebuilding the fallen franchise came in advance of the expected retirement of six-time All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones following two knee surgeries.
Actually, it was a second strike. Carroll took Okung bowling when he visited him before the draft.
“We had extra time and it was ‘Hey, let’s go bowling,'” Okung said by telephone from the draft in New York, with his mother, Dorothy Akabio, at his side. “It didn’t go too well on my end, but it was a great game.”
What did the 6-foot-5, 302-pound Okung roll?
“Like a 50,” he said, chuckling.
New Seahawks offensive line coach Alex Gibbs immediately gave the starting job to Okung, further cementing the belief Jones will not be back.
“He will be our starting left tackle day one, hour one, and we will live through whatever pain there is,” Gibbs said of Okung. “He’s going to be Walter’s replacement, obviously. … We wanted to make sure (that issue) was dealt with as quickly as possible.”
The play-making Thomas fills the most urgent need on defense. Seattle had just two safeties on the roster present for last week’s minicamp.
Thomas set a Longhorns record last season with eight interceptions, then left Texas after his sophomore season to enter the draft and won’t turn 21 until next month. A hard hitter with a knack for interceptions, Thomas started all 27 games of his college career, finishing with 149 tackles, and 10 interceptions. His two interception returns for touchdowns last season also set a Texas record.
The second offensive tackle taken in the top six picks – two spots after Washington selected Oklahoma’s Trent Williams – is Seattle’s first tackle taken in the opening round since the 36-year-old Jones. Jones also went sixth overall, in 1997.
“I’m a bit overwhelmed,” said Okung, who is from Houston. “It’s definitely just a blessing to be considered. I think Seattle made the best choice.”
Okung sounded awed to be replacing Jones.
“He’s a great player … obviously a future Hall of Fame guy,” the 2009 Big 12 offensive lineman of the year said. “I can only hope I can be as good as him.”
Okung started 47 consecutive college games, the last 39 at left tackle, after arriving at Oklahoma State weighing 250 pounds.
He is the first Oklahoma State offensive lineman to go in the first round since guard John Ward went 25th overall to Minnesota in 1970.
Okung’s teammates with the Cowboys considered him a natural leader, one who led team chapel services before a game last season.