RENTON, WA - In May of 2013, a 21-year old Benson Mayowa made his way up to the state of Washington for a tryout with the Seahawks. At the time, the culture head coach Pete Carroll was building was still one of the best-kept secrets in the NFL. As such, players like Mayowa were relatively unaware of the opportunity that culture breeds.
"I didn't know that," Mayowa reflected on his knowledge of Carroll's philosophy heading into his tryout. "I was trying to get in where I fit in when I was undrafted. So, I found out shortly after. But that's the reputation here."
Going undrafted out of Idaho that spring, Mayowa signed with the team following his tryout and went on to impress in the preseason, earn a spot on the 53-man roster and come along for the ride of a lifetime as a member of the eventual Super Bowl champions. All because Carroll truly believes that, in his system, everyone deserves a chance.
Under Carroll's watch, players like Doug Baldwin, Poona Ford, Jermaine Kearse and Mayowa have etched out long-lasting NFL careers after going undrafted. As a result, many UDFAs now view Seattle as a land of opportunity.
That especially rung true this past May, when the Seahawks made just three selections in the 2021 NFL Draft. With few drafted rookies to compete with, the door to a spot on a potential Super Bowl contender was wide open to those fortunate enough to get a call. Seattle went on to sign several UDFAs with draftable grades, including some who were expected to go well before the event came to its conclusion.
On August 31, many will find out if their decision to come to the Pacific Northwest paid off as rosters cut down from 80 to 53 players around the league. But before that, there is one preseason game left to be played—one final audition for several of the team's UDFAs to stake their claim for the 53-man roster.
Once in their shoes, a now nine-year veteran Mayowa has made himself available to the young Seahawks who look to follow in his footsteps.
"I just share my story with them," Mayowa said. "And how I get in the league and how I stuck in the league. You can't really give a guy a golden ticket, but you can tell them what to do and how to do it and, you know, that's all you can give them is game and see how they take it."
As the Seahawks get set to take on the Chargers in their preseason finale this Saturday, receiver Cade Johnson, offensive lineman Jake Curhan and safety Aashari Crosswell, among others, will try to cement their place in Seattle—and the NFL—for the long haul. That's the way Mayowa did it all the way back in 2013.
In what may be the game that forever changed his life—in the Seahawks' final dress rehearsal before the 2013 regular season—Mayowa recorded a strip-sack of Raiders quarterback Matt McGloin. It was at that moment he transitioned from a small-school unknown to a professional football player at the highest level of the sport.
Though Mayowa's first stint in Seattle was short-lived, he'd take his championship ring and the knowledge he gained as a rookie and turn it into a blossoming career as a rotational defensive end. Bouncing around between the Raiders, Cowboys and Cardinals, the Inglewood, California native put up 20.0 sacks and 129 combined tackles before making his return to the Seahawks in 2020.
Now, nearly a decade removed from Carroll and his staff taking a chance on him, Mayowa understands just how unique of an environment Seattle can truly be for an undrafted player like him—even for those that may end up landing elsewhere.
"I think the Seattle reputation is you can get a chance," Mayowa explained. "Like, you will have that chance to prove yourself. You'll have that chance to get a shot. You know, coach doesn't care. If you can play, you're gonna play. So I think that's the reputation here."