Outside of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks are relatively anonymous on offence.
Only three Seahawks players have more than 30 catches this year, and two of them — Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin — weren’t drafted.
Baldwin’s story is particularly unlikely. A year and a half before Seattle signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2011, Baldwin was demoted to Stanford’s scout team by coach Jim Harbaugh (who he described as “a military type”) and wanted to quit football altogether.
“I hated practice. I hated going to meetings and listening to the coaches,” he told the Pensacola News in 2011. “I just hated football, and I had never felt like that before.”
As a sophomore in 2008, Baldwin made 23 catches and played in all 12 of his team’s games. But as a junior he saw his playing time disappear, making four catches in only seven games.
Today, Baldwin blames his disastrous junior year on himself, while acknowledging that he and Harbaugh bumped heads.
“Jim and I did not have the best relationship while I was at Stanford. I was immature, a young athlete who thought I knew everything,” he told ESPN recently.
Baldwin eventually found his way out of Harbaugh’s doghouse by his senior year at Stanford, turning himself into the team’s top receiver with 58 catches. His teammate Austin Yancy told the Pensacola News that Baldwin deserves all the credit for improving his situation:
“Give Doug credit, he found his way when a lot of other guys would have just quit and left. He stopped placing blame on what he thought the problems were and instead looked at himself and started controlling what he can control.”
But when the 2011 NFL Draft came around, Harbaugh — who had just got the 49ers job — passed on Baldwin along with the rest of the league.
“Well, I should have drafted him,” Harbaugh admitted at the end of Baldwin’s rookie year. “Yeah, I’m kicking myself for not doing that.”
When Harbaugh got the Michigan job, Baldwin wished him luck in an ESPN interview, but added, “Go Buckeyes.”
Baldwin’s playing time has steadily increased in his four years in Seattle. He isn’t as explosive as Percy Harvin or as physically imposing as Sidney Rice, but his consistency has helped the Seahawks survive the dual departures of those two more highly regarded receivers.
Five years after nearly walking away from the game, he’s a team’s primary pass-catching option in the Super Bowl.
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