DENVER - The word on Seattle rookie tight end Will Dissly during much of training camp was that he excelled as a strong blocker.
Quarterback Russell Wilson, however, dropped more extensive hints regarding Dissly's all-around skills, referring to the fourth-round pick out of Washington as one of the best athletes on the team.
During Sunday's 27-24 loss at Denver, Dissly went from potential backup blocking tight end to maybe one of the most added tight ends in the fantasy football universe when he hauled in three receptions for 105 yards (all in the first half) and scored the first touchdown of his career, and the season for the Seahawks.
Not bad for a guy that played defensive end his first two seasons at Washington and amassed a modest 336 yards receiving during his collegiate career.
“He was on fire," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "He was Ditka, he was like [Pro Football Hall of Famer] Mike Ditka out there. He just missed a couple other ones too. We just overthrew him a bit. He might have had two or three more catches. He was really in the right spot and he deployed well for the game plan and all that. And again, we have been talking about this, he is doing great for us and I am really happy to see him contribute like that."
Dissly started the game along with Nick Vannett in a two tight end formation. Dissly is listed on the team's depth chart as the starting tight end in place of injured veteran, Ed Dickson, who missed the entire preseason. The Seahawks acquired Dickson, an eight-year veteran out of Oregon with a Super Bowl ring he won with Baltimore, to replace Jimmy Graham (Green Bay) and provide Seattle with more of a blocking presence at the position. Dickson not being able to perform appeared to be a huge detriment for the team. But Dissly clearly is quite the fill-in and has earned the trust of quarterback Russell Wilson.
“It was just a cool opportunity to go out there that first game, and to do some special things," Dissly said. "Russ was awesome, putting the ball right where it needs to be. I just have to make some plays. Obviously, we have some work to do going forward, but it was a cool way to start for sure.”
Nobody seems to know when Dickson will return. When he does, Dissly figured to remain very much in the mix.
Dissly's first reception on Sunday came in the first quarter on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to give Seattle a brief, 7-0 lead. Dissly, aligned to the left of the formation, pass blocked, delaying his release, and then slipped out to find nobody covering him over the top. Wilson lobbed an easy pass to Dissly for the touchdown.
Dissly's biggest play of the game came on a 66-yard reception in the second quarter.
From the Seattle 31, Dissly, aligned to the right, ran an over route and caught Wilson's pass at the 44 between two defenders closing in quickly. One went low, and missed Dissly's feet, the other went high and bounced off of Dissly like a child would an adult.
“You can’t slow down at all," Dissly said. "When you see green grass, you are pushing pedal to the medal and are trying to go as fast as you can.”
Dissly then cut left and speed to the Denver 30, where he received a helpful block from wide receiver Brandon Marshall and then shook another pursuing Denver defensive back. Now free down the sideline, Dissly looked like he might score but was eventually pushed out of bounds at the Denver 5-yard line by linebacker Brandon Marshall (no relation).
The entire play, Dissly said, sort of just happened without much thought.
The big play set up a 35-yard field goal by Sebastian Janikowski to give Seattle a 10-7 lead.
Dissly's performance only reinforced Wilson's faith in the rookie.
“He’s been great all training camp," Wilson said. "He has been great all OTAs. He’s been a rock star for us. I think he’s been rock solid. He has been able to step into the role of playing tight end and making plays. He is very fundamental. He’s very smart. He gets the game. He is one of our best athletes in general. He can do a little bit of everything. He played a great game. We’ll get everyone else involved too, as well. I think it’ll be an exciting year for us."
Unfortunately, despite Dissly's exploits, Seattle did lose. That made it difficult for Dissly to rate even catching his first NFL touchdown in the list of sports thrills in his life.
"Give me 24 hours," Dissly said with a smile. "Gotta get over this game, first. But that was fun. That was special. Catching the ball from Russell Wilson is always cool. And we're going to have a lot more opportunities going down the road."