SALT LAKE CITY — The Seattle Seahawks already had one of the top linebacking products to come from an Utah university in recent years on their roster.
Utah State's Bobby Wagner, a seven-year NFL veteran, is a four-time All-Pro who's won a Super Bowl ring with Seattle and made an appearance in two NFC championship games while manning the middle linebacker position for the Seahawks.
Now, he's joined in Seattle by Utah linebacker Cody Barton, the former Brighton High star who was selected by the Seahawks in the third round of the 2019 NFL draft.
Seattle got its first glimpse of Barton and its rookie class this past weekend as the Seahawks held their rookie minicamp. Also on hand was fellow Ute and safety Marquise Blair, a second-round pick by Seattle, and former Cedar and Westlake High star John Ursua, a wide receiver and seventh-round selection.
Barton lined up at the middle "Mike" linebacker position during minicamp, while Washington's Ben Burr-Kirven, a fifth-round selection, was at weakside linebacker. The Seattle Times' Bob Condotta wrote that Barton is likely to start training camp as Wagner's backup while also getting looks at other 'backer positions.
Barton's command of the defense and his work with Burr-Kirven stood out at the three-day camp.
“It really jumped out,’’ Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said, according to the Times. “We’ve been in these situations many times and you could tell their expertise and their willingness to really study it up and communicate with the coaches really well. They transferred the stuff in the classroom to the field exceptionally. And it stood out above any group we’ve ever had in here — those were the two best guys we’ve ever brought in."
Wagner, meanwhile, is headed into his final year of his contract with the Seahawks — he's set to make $10.5 million in base salary in 2019 — and the linebacker told NFL Network over the weekend he's preparing as if this in his final season in the only place he's called home as a pro.
"I want to retire a Seahawk, but I understand it's a business," Wagner told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz on Saturday. "I'm preparing like this is my last year as a Seahawk. If it is, I want to make sure I go out with a bang and make sure I give the city something to remember."
That doesn't mean a move is imminent. Wagner has proven invaluable in Seattle, averaging 130.8 tackles per season — he led the NFL with 167 tackles in 2016 — while rarely missing a game due to injury. Last year, he had his first career pick-six on a 98-yard interception return and has 16.5 career sacks to go along with 41 pass deflections, nine interceptions and four forced fumbles.
Condotta pointed out that Wagner has started alongside K.J. Wright (who's on his first year of a two-year deal) at inside linebacker in Seattle since 2013. The Seahawks now have selected linebackers the past two drafts, their first draft picks at the position since 2014.
"It’s been as successful of a linebacker pairing as any in Seahawks history, and figures to continue for at least another year," Condotta wrote of Wagner and Wright. "But for how long may depend on what the Seahawks see out of Barton and Burr-Kirven this year."
'Starstruck' by a legendary coach
Utah State running back Darwin Thompson got his first taste of NFL action this weekend, too, as he headed to Kansas City for rookie minicamp after the Chiefs selected him in the NFL draft's sixth round.
The speedy running back called being in Kansas City 'the perfect situation,' and when asked to elaborate, Thompson brought up the Chiefs' Andy Reid, a longtime NFL head coach and former BYU player and assistant.
“Just the offense. Andy Reid. You’re talking about starstruck — when I met coach Andy Reid on my top-30 visit, I was like ‘This is a Hall of Fame coach. He’s on his way.’ To just be in his system and to see what he’s done with other guys in the running back position, I’m very blessed. Perfect situation,” Thompson told reporters following the first day of camp, according to the team website.
Reid, too, liked what he saw in the 5-foot-8, 200-pound Thompson.
“What we saw we sure liked,” Reid told The Kansas City Star. “Quickness, he’s not real tall but he’s put together, rocked up pretty good. He’s got great quickness in him. One of those guys that his center of gravity, he can move around very low and quick and he’s got good hands.”
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And finally ...
Utah football celebrity Sam Gordon, along with fellow female player Toni Harris, had fun interacting with fans during the NFL draft in Nashville, Tennessee, as shown in a video shared by The Checkdown on Twitter.