Last year, Seattle Seahawks David Hawthorne stepped in at MLB for the injured Lofa Tatupu and led the Seattle Seahawks in tackles. This year, he’s tackling the transition to outside linebacker
David Hawthorne’s cubicle in the Seahawks’ locker room is not enclosed in glass. It doesn’t include an incase-of-emergency-break sign, or the hammer to do it.
But it might as well.
When defensive coordinator Gus Bradley finds himself in need of a starting linebacker, he turns to Hawthorne – who earned a roster spot as a rookie free agent in 2008; led the team in tackles last season after stepping in for injured middle linebacker Lofa Tatupu; and now is playing the weak-side spot for Leroy Hill, who is not participating in any team activities at this time
“The more you can do,” Bradley said through a smile after the team’s OTA session Wednesday. “That sure helps us out.”
Hawthorne is doing – and has done – a lot. More than could really be expected for a 6-foot, 240-pound linebacker from TCU.
Like last year. In his first start for Tatupu, Hawthorne registered 16 tackles, which tied for the third-highest total in franchise history. In his next start, he collected two sacks. In his next start, it was two interceptions.
Before Hawthorne was done flogging some ridiculously long odds, he had his team-leading 116 tackles, shared the lead with three interceptions and was third on the club with four sacks.
Now, he is facing a what-can-you-do-for-us-lately situation by stepping in for the athletically gifted Hill.
Tatupu, a three-time Pro Bowl selection who was the team’s leading tackler in each of his first four seasons, is back and taking charge of the defensive changes being implemented by coach Pete Carroll and Bradley. On the strong side is Aaron Curry, last year’s first-round draft choice who is preparing to play as consistently this season as he did in spurts as a rookie.
That leaves Hawthorne to prove himself. Again.
“It’s just a way to get him on the field,” Bradley of Hawthorne making the inside-out transition. “He has proven he can play at this level, and do very well. So it’s just a way to get him on the field more.”
At a position he never has played. Not at Corsicana (Texas) High School, where Hawthorne was more of a rover. Not at TCU, where he started 38 games at middle linebacker. Not with the Seahawks, where he earned the nickname “Heater” as a rookie because, as Tatupu put it, “He was out there just heating people up.”
“I’m really getting the hang of it,” Hawthorne said. “I’ve never played outside before, but it’s coming along for me.”
The biggest difference, of course, is playing in space. As a middle linebacker, plays are funneled to you and the key is maneuvering through traffic to make them. Outside, it’s the wide-open spaces.
“You cover the tight end in space,” Hawthorne said. “You play outside the box in space in some formations. There are a couple of significant differences.”
But it’s a new role Hawthorne is more than happy to tackle. There wasn’t a nanosecond of hesitation when Bradley approached him about sliding outside.
“Anything to get on the field,” he said. “That’s always my motto: Anything I can do to be out there and make my presence felt, I’m willing to do it.”
This isn’t a just-keeping-the-spot-warm situation for Hawthorne. The Seahawks are moving toward training camp and the season with Hawthorne very much in their plans. As linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. recently told Seahawks.com’s Ben Malcolmson, “He’s extremely explosive, a big-play guy and a very good tackler. He’s the type of guy that you can’t hold back. You need him on the field. I don’t even consider him a backup. He’s a starter until someone unseats him.”
As Hawthorne showed last year, give him any opportunity and he’ll run with it.
“There are a lot of people who have potential,” he said. “There are a lot of people who never get the opportunity to showcase what they’ve got. I was blessed and fortunate enough to actually get a chance to show people that I belong on the field and that I can compete at this level.
“I’m thankful for that.”
Now, it’s the Seahawks who are thankful for Hawthorne.
“Last year, ‘Heater’ just grew with the transition,” Bradley said. “And that’s what he’s doing right now.”