RENTON, WA - When the Seahawks opened rookie minicamp on Friday, the vast majority had never stepped foot on the field at the Virginia Mason Athletic Complex. But for undrafted free agent signee Connor Wedington, it helped bring back one of his favorite childhood memories.
Wedington, who starred as a running back and defensive back at nearby Sumner High School, which is located around 45 minutes south of Seattle, recalled attending a Seahawks training camp session with his family when he was just eight years old. Based on the timeline, that may have been the first year the team used the facility, which opened in 2008.
"I remember being over here like right on this hill," Wedington smiled, pointing to the berm off to the left side of the trio of practice fields where fans normally congregate during camp. "Coming out to practice and just watching the training camp and 13 years later, now I'm out here."
It's been quite the journey back home for Wedington, who spent the past four years excelling as a receiver and special teams ace after enrolling at Stanford. In 31 games with the Cardinal, he amassed 106 receptions for 971 yards and a touchdown and returned 25 kicks for a healthy 27.4 yards per return average.
Wedington also performed well in the classroom, earning a degree in Science, Technology, and Society from one of the nation's premier universities and previously receiving All-Pac 12 Academic Honor Roll recognition in 2019.
"Connor was a guy I was really excited about when we got into the free agency thing because of his background being from the area and all that," coach Pete Carroll said of Wedington following Saturday's practice session. "Built well, strong kid, really bright kid. He was really excited to have the chance to play here and play in front of people he knows and a team that he loves and all that. We're looking forward to the versatility he brings."
After turning in an outstanding performance at Stanford's pro day - including running a 4.47-second 40-yard dash and 6.66-second 3-cone drill - Wedington liked his prospects heading into the 2021 NFL Draft. Bolstered by his athletic testing numbers, he believed he would be drafted somewhere between the fifth and seventh round as a Day 3 selection.
Unfortunately for Wedington, he didn't receive the call he expected before the conclusion of the seventh round, but going undrafted proved to be a blessing. Numerous teams immediately reached out with interest in signing him, including Seattle.
While Wedington admitted the Seahawks didn't offer quite as much money as some other teams did during the process, the opportunity to suit up in front of family and friends for the team he grew up rooting for was simply too good to pass up.
"That process is pretty hectic, but at the same time it's pretty blissful because there was a good amount of teams that wanted me," Wedington stated. "I did have - in terms of monetary value - there were other teams that offered more in terms of signing bonus and guaranteed [money]. But at the end of the day, this is home and I feel like this is a great opportunity. This is a team I want to be a part of."
When asked how his friends and family reacted to the news he would be signing with the Seahawks, Wedington indicated they were "very excited," specifically saying his sisters were ecstatic about him returning home.
But Wedington isn't viewing this as just a homecoming. He chose to sign with Seattle with the belief he can crack the 53-man roster in September.
"I'm excited," Wedington said. "This is a chance for me to come out and compete, earn a spot on the field and go help this team win."
Though this weekend's practice sessions are a far cry from an actual training camp practice given contact limitations among other things, Wedington made the most of his first reps in a Seahawks uniform and looks to be off to a good start.
Running routes from the slot as well as the outside, Wedington caught several passes from quarterback Danny Etling during 11-on-11 team drills. He also frequently motioned across the formation pre-snap, showing off the positional versatility that made him an undrafted target for many teams.
As the offseason program progresses and training camp eventually arrives in late July, Wedington will battle against Freddie Swain, Cody Thompson, Penny Hart, and fellow undrafted rookie Cade Johnson for snaps primarily working out of the slot. Hshould also be in the mix for kick and punt return duties, competing against D.J. Reed and fellow rookie D'Wayne Eskridge.
Whatever the team asks him to do, Wedington will be ready to give his all to help the Seahawks anyway he can and prove 32 teams made a mistake overlooking him in the draft.
"Going undrafted, it's obviously not preferred, but to end up here, you know I think everything happens for a reason. I'm here and I've got a chip on my shoulder and I'm ready to compete."