Drafted in the fourth round – the 111th overall selection in this year’s draft – the Seattle Seahawks picked Walter Thurmond with an eye toward the future.
However, for the 22-year-old cornerback out of the University of Oregon, the future could come quickly. Thurmond tore three major ligaments in his right knee last September while at Oregon, and missed most of his senior season. After diligent rehab, and only 11 months after the surgery, Thurmond is on the field during training camp for Seattle working through full-contact drills.
Thurmond still is wearing a brace on his right leg to protect his knee.
“I feel like I’m almost there,” Thurmond said. “I feel faster without my brace on. With the brace, there’s a little more baggage there with different stuff. But I’m starting to get to the point where I’m not really thinking about the brace when I’m out there, so that’s very good. And I’m still able to make some plays.”
Team trainers have limited Thurmond to one practice a day, but so far he appears to have regained most of his quickness. Seahawks secondary coach Jerry Gray has put Thurmond in different situations on the field to test his mental makeup, and so far he has passed with flying colors, leaving Gray impressed with his ability to adjust on the run.
Officially listed at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds, Thurmond also provides more of a physical presence to deal with some of the bigger receivers in the NFC West like Arizona’s Larry Fitzgerald and San Francisco’s Michael Crabtree, something smaller corners like Kelly Jennings and Josh Wilson have struggled with.
Improving the team’s pass defense has been an ongoing issue for the Seahawks, who ranked 30th in the league in passing yards allowed last season and gave up 27 touchdowns through the air, eighth-worst in the league.
“He’s 6-foot and he’s tough,” Gray said about Thurmond. “He’s not afraid to tackle. He’s not afraid to hit a kickoff return. He’s not afraid to go get a football out of the air as DB. When you’ve got that – that’s pretty special. So if he can overcome the knee, he’ll be one of the top guys in the league.”
Gray said he wants to see how Thurmond responds to game-like pressure before actually having to use him during the regular season.
“We’re putting him into different situations,” Gray said. “He may be in with the first group, or sometimes with the second group or the third group – it just depends. Because I want him to understand if your number is called, don’t be ashamed about going in. Or don’t be shy about being in there with Marcus Trufant and Josh (Wilson) or Kelly (Jennings). So he’s going to have to step up to that. And I think he’s doing that.”
Before his knee injury, Thurmond was considered a borderline first-round talent. He finished his career at Oregon with 12 interceptions, ninth in school history, and was considered one of the top returners in the Pac-10.
“You’re getting a really well-rounded player, a guy that is going to bring a lot of versatility,” said Seahawks area scout Eric Stokes, who was responsible for scouting Thurmond. “You’re talking about a guy who was a four-year starter, who has done a little bit of everything. He’s been outside the numbers. He’s been in the slot. He definitely brings some versatility.”