Seahawks Fill Two Big Holes In First Round Of NFL Draft

NFLWalter JonesSeattle SeahawksJohn Schneider Pete Carroll

The Seahawks fought off the urge to trade down two high draft picks, and instead, filled two big holes during the first day of the NFL Draft.

Pete Carroll's first strike in rebuildingthe fallen Seahawks' franchise came days before the expectedannouncement that six-time All-Pro left tackle Walter Jones isretiring.

Actually, it was a second strike.

Seattle's new coach took Russell Okung bowling in Stillwater,Okla., when he visited the All-American tackle from Oklahoma Statebefore the draft.

"We had extra time and it was 'Hey, let's go bowling!"' Okungsaid by telephone from the draft in New York after the Seahawksselected him sixth overall on Thursday. "It didn't go too well onmy end, but it was a great game."

Carroll and new general manager John Schneider think they rolleda perfect game on the first, signature day of their new regime.They filled their most urgent needs by selecting Jones'replacement, then Texas All-American safety Earl Thomas at No. 14overall.

Okung's Oklahoma State teammates considered him a naturalleader. The Seahawks marveled over his dedication to football, andto excellence.

"This guy wants to be the best left tackle in the NFL,"Schneider said. "He might want to be the best left tackle ever.He's got a presence about him."

New Seahawks offensive line coach Alex Gibbs immediately gavethe starting job to Okung, further cementing the inevitable wordthat Jones is done following two knee surgeries and no games playedsince Thanksgiving Day 2008. An announcement on Jones' future isscheduled April 29.

"We're going to throw him right in. He will be our startingleft tackle day one, hour one, and we will live through whateverpain there is," Gibbs said of Okung. "He's going to be Walter'sreplacement, obviously. ... We wanted to make sure (that issue) wasdealt with as quickly as possible."

Okung was the second offensive tackle taken in the top six picks- two spots after Washington selected Oklahoma's Trent Williams,whom Seattle would have picked had he been available. He is alsoSeattle's first tackle taken in the opening round since the36-year-old Jones. Jones also went sixth overall, in 1997, thenbecame a nine-time Pro Bowl selection.

"I'm a bit overwhelmed," said Okung, who is from Houston. "Ithink Seattle made the best choice."

Okung, the 2009 Big 12 offensive lineman of the year, soundedawed to be replacing Jones.

"He's a great player ... obviously a future Hall of Fame guy. Ican only hope I can be as good as him," Okung said.

He was in a zone-blocking system at Oklahoma State that Gibbssays has some similarities to what he is installing in Seattle. Hestarted 47 consecutive college games, the last 39 at left tackle,after arriving in Stillwater weighing 250 pounds.

He is the first Oklahoma State offensive lineman to go in thefirst round since guard John Ward went 25th overall to Minnesota in1970.

The play-making Thomas, who has 4.3 speed in the 40-yard dash,fills the Seahawks' most urgent need on defense. Seattle had justtwo safeties on the roster present for last week's minicamp. Thattrumped at least two trade offers the Seahawks got to move down,just before they took the first safety in an opening round sinceKenny Easley in 1981.

"He'll be as good as there is in the NFL at being able to coverwide receivers as well as slot receivers," Carroll said, addingthat Thomas goes into the lineup at free safety - for now oppositeveteran holdover Jordan Babineaux.

The Seahawks will fill Thomas' most urgent need, whenever thetwo sides reach a contract agreement.

He left Texas after his sophomore season to enter the draft tohelp his parents find a new home.

His parents' house in Orange, Texas, was destroyed in 2005 byHurricane Rita. His folks and all of their belongings have sincebeen cramped into a room in Thomas' grandparents' house in Orange.The room is so small, the safety says it is the size of a youngchild's space.

"That was one of the main reasons why I came out, because ofthe house situation," Thomas said by telephone from a draftgathering of what he said was 400 people in the basement of theSixth Street Community Church in Orange, where his grandfather isthe pastor.

"I'm going to get them situated ... I just want to get themback on their feet and comfortable," the 20-year-old said."They've been taking care of me all my life. It's just a greatfeeling for me just to be able to return the favor."

Thomas set a Longhorns record last season with eightinterceptions. He started all 27 games of his college career,finishing with 10 interceptions.

"This was a big day for the organization. I'm so fired up,"Carroll said. "Two great picks, two guys that we know are going toimpact the future of this club."

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