Quinton Ganther’s willingness to do whatever it takes and his follow-him-anywhere bond with Sherman Smith have made the versatile back one of the surprises at the Seahawks’ training camp.
Quinton Ganther not only would follow Sherman Smith anywhere, he has.
This running back/running backs coach relationship began in 2006, when Smith was an assistant coach in Tennessee and the Titans drafted Ganther in the seventh round. It continued after Smith when to Washington in 2008 to be the Redskins’ offensive coordinator and he pushed to sign Ganther when he became available in 2009.
Now, they are together again with the Seahawks – Smith in his familiar role as running backs coach for the team he played for from 1976-82; Ganther in his familiar role as Smith’s Swiss-army-knife of a back.
“I’ve been with the guy almost my entire career,” Ganther said after a recent practice at Bing Training Camp. “He’s somebody special to me. He shoots it straight to me, on and off the field. He allows me to become not only a better football player, but a better person.
“That’s why the bond is so deep. He really cares about his players, and not just on the field but he cares how you act as a man – how you carry yourself.”
As a coincidental bow to tie around the package deal that Smith and Ganther have become, the Seahawks open their first preseason under coach Pete Carroll on Saturday night at Qwest Field against the Titans.
What will Ganther be up to against his former team? The usual. He’ll get some snaps at tailback, as well as fullback. He’ll carry the ball, and probably catch it, too. He’ll cover kicks on special teams. He’ll give Smith and the other coaches the peace of mind that comes with knowing Ganther is more than willing to do whatever they ask – and whatever it takes.
“There’s a difference between a guy who plays football and a football player, and Quinton is a football player,” Smith said. “It’s important to him. He competes every day. He just gives you everything he has.”
The 5-foot-9, 214-pound Ganther is a self-made player, and one who is still under construction.
“They can put me anywhere. You can do anything with me. I’m willing to do it,” he said. “And if I can’t do it, I’m going to work and get better so I can do it.”
That has been Ganther’s MO all along.
After setting school records at Fairfield (Calif.) High School in football (rushing yards) and baseball (batting average), he spent two seasons at Citrus Junior College in Glendora, Calif., where also set the school record with 2,729 rushing yards. Then, it was on to Utah, where Ganther’s all-around game really started to round into shape.
Ganther spent most of his first two seasons with the Titans on the practice squad, and then got only 15 touches (nine rushes, six receptions) in his third season. After signing with the Redskins midway through last season, Ganther ran for 201 yards on 62 carries and caught nine passes for 99 yards. He even started four games.
“Quinton just kept persevering by doing the little stuff,” Smith said. “What the other guys didn’t want to do, he would do. He didn’t care what you ask him to do. And he’s still doing it.”
When Ganther signed with the Seahawks in March, it was one of those blink-and-you’ll-miss-it transitions. But once the players hit the field for minicamp and OTA practices, Ganther started to open some eyes. And what his versatility could mean to the team has only come into better focus during training camp.
“I think probably the best surprise is how competitive Ganther has been,” Carroll said the other day while discussing the highly competitive situation at running back. “He’s really been in the midst of it and the fact that he’s playing fullback as well for us and can double up and give us some hard-nosed running at the tailback spot is really a plus for what the group offers.”
Just like Smith knew he would.
In fact, the best way to get Ganther to do something is to tell him he can’t do it.
“He’s been doing that all his life,” Smith said. “Growing up where he grew up, he had hard times and he had to fight through a lot of stuff. And he’s a fighter.”
That’s what motivates Ganther to embrace the less-glamorous elements of the game.
“I tell myself all the time, it’s either this or go back to where I come from,” said Ganther, who was born in Oakland, Calif. “I don’t want to go back. I made it out. If I go back, I go back by my choice. I go back to visit.
“I don’t want to go back because I lost my job for not doing what it takes.”
And he definitely does not want to let down the coach who has been in his corner since the beginning by cutting corners.
“God works in mysterious ways,” Ganther said. “Sherman is going to be in life with football or without football. I really respect him as a man, as a leader. He leads by doing things the right way.”
And Ganther obviously is willing to follow.