RENTON, Wash. (AP) — When Anthony McCoy was lost for the season in May after tearing an Achilles, the Seattle Seahawks were left with several questions at the tight end position.
While veteran Zach Miller was set as the starter, Seattle needed to find a complement to fill out their offensive attack. Fifth-round pick Luke Willson stepped up.
Willson has played in every game for Seattle this season and scored his first touchdown two weeks ago against the San Francisco 49ers. He has become a more trusted option for quarterback Russell Wilson as the season has progressed and has become a more competent blocker.
"Luke can play the whole position," coach Pete Carroll said. "I mean he's been a fantastic draft pick for us, an incredible draft pick for us. I mean he could play so early and contribute in such a variety of ways, and he's really just getting started."
McCoy caught 18 passes for 291 yards and three touchdowns last season. He had improved as a run blocker and Seattle felt comfortable lining up in the backfield, split out wide or as an inline blocker. With McCoy injured, Willson had some big shoes to fill and not much time to get up to speed.
"I was still so new and so involved with trying to learn the offense that I really didn't have too many thoughts where I would be down the road. It was pretty overwhelming the amount of information you needed to take in," Willson said.
He tried to keep his head down and focused on what was in front of him instead of looking at the big picture of the role he needed to fill.
"It was like 'I'm going to try and worry about the next play. Make sure I know what I'm doing,'" Willson said.
With Miller sidelined for much of the preseason due to injury, Willson and second-year player Sean McGrath had ample opportunity to impress the coaching staff. The mark left by Willson's play led Seattle to keep just two tight ends during final cutdowns in August.
"You didn't really know what you had," offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We drafted him. We liked what we saw but you had to see how he was going to fit in protection wise, how he was going to fit in run blocking wise, how he was going to fit in catching the ball.