A Tackling Machine For The Seattle LB Factory
By Corbin Smith
Being drafted by an NFL team with an impressive group of linebackers like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith, and Bruce Irvin would typically not be the ideal landing spot for a college LB looking to make an early splash.
In the case of former Boston College standout Kevin Pierre-Louis, however, the kid gets it. He understands the big picture and realizes that despite having many talented players in front of him on the depth chart, playing for Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks will give him an opportunity to compete. He knows that while he may not have a chance to contribute immediately on defense, he can make his mark on special teams and eventually push veterans in front of him for repetitions with the first team.
Pierre-Louis knows where he came from, and he spoke in earnest with me about how his father had the greatest influence on him making it to this point. His father pushed him in all facets of his life, but football always sat in second place when compared to academics, and Kevin discovered the importance of learning at a young age. At one point, he failed to turn in an assignment for one of his classes, and his father ended up forcing him to skip a few football practices as punishment. He ended up returning to the field and apologizing to his teammates, using the entire experience as a life lesson moving forward.
"The values that he instilled in me at an early age just made keep striving to become a better person, and that also translated on the field," Pierre-Louis said. "It's allowed me to appreciate everything I've accomplished on the field."
Once he began to consider schools for playing at the collegiate level, Pierre-Louis had offers to play for Stanford, Duke, and Virginia. However, he decided to commit to Boston College due to its impressive academic programs. In an age where most recruits choose schools based on everything from the team's ability to produce pro level players to the uniforms they they wear on game day, it's refreshing to see a highly-talented player like Pierre-Louis make his final commitment based on the education he would receive from the institution.
While he dominated in the classroom, he also dominated on the field. He became an instant starter for the Eagles, racking up 360 tackles as a four-year starter against ACC competition. He ranked in the top 10 tacklers in the conference for four years and wrapped up his college career as a First-Team all-conference linebacker. Despite the impressive production and coming from a program that has recently churned out other talented linebackers like 2013 NFL Defensive Player of the Year Luke Kuechly, his lack of size hindered his draft stock this spring. At six-foot, 235, many NFL scouts labeled him as a "tweener," leaving him as a mid-round prospect on most draft boards.
However, Pierre-Louis doesn't see his below-average stature being an issue as he adapts to the pro game, citing that he's more concerned about improving as a football player than adding bulk. He also believes he landed in the perfect situation to blossom as a player under the tutelage of Pete Carroll and his coaching staff.
"It's not necessarily about when you go, but about where you go," he said. "It's about going into the best situation, and I honestly couldn't have gone to a better situation. It's a great defense. I get to learn a lot, and it's almost like I get to start over and create a new name for myself. It's just a blessing to learn from a defense like this."
The Seahawks covet three things on defense: toughness, athleticism, and competitive fire. Pierre-Louis brings all three traits to the table, though he will have to prove himself to be more durable after missing several games during his time at Boston College with various injuries. He ran a 4.51 40-yard dash at the combine, and many of his other measurables matched up on par with Pittsburgh Steelers first round pick Ryan Shazier, so his athletic ability should mesh perfectly with Seattle's fast defensive unit. Playing alongside players like Kuechly in college also allowed him to compete against top talent on his own team, and that should prepare him well for this opportunity.
"I have faith in my abilities. I'm just here to learn and really embrace the whole experience," Pierre-Louis said. "I'm a competitor. At the end of the day, that's one thing I love to do. I feel as though there's not too many people who have my competitive nature, and I'm happy to be here to compete."
The Seahawks are loaded at the linebacker position, but there's plenty of reason to believe that a strong rookie campaign from Pierre-Louis would make offseason decisions easier for the franchise next spring. Both Wright and Smith will be unrestricted free agents in 2015, and with Russell Wilson next in line for a massive contract extension, it's tough to envision both defenders being retained long-term. Cutting ties with either player would be tough, but knowing that Pierre-Louis stood waiting in the wings to replace one of them would make the situation less complicated, and the talent drop-off would be minimal.
Pete Carroll values competition above everything else, and the fire burns bright within this young man. Barring injuries, playing time will probably be limited to special teams in 2014. But his humble upbringing and superior work ethic should allow him to make great strides this year and put himself in a position to challenge for a starting gig in the near future. If that happens, it'll simply be another draft day steal for the organization.