There was some buzz around this new Auburn wide receiver drafted late in the Mike Holmgren era. He had a flare for the dramatic, and the strength to go over the middle. He earned a chance to start by his second year in the league, and was out of football by his third. That was the story of Courtney Taylor. Taken in the 6th round in the 2007 draft by the Seahawks, Taylor made a glitzy entrance with his acrobatic catches, but made a rapid exit with his inconsistency and lack of attention to detail. Another late Auburn draft pick quietly earned his way onto the roster a year before Taylor. He was not flashy. He was not brash. He was a pro, from day one. Ben Obomanu came into the league as a 7th round pick back in 2006, and clawed his way to seven years with the Seahawks before being released yesterday.
Obomanu’s story is the often untold side of the NFL that is made up of hundreds of players who are not stars, or even potential stars. They are the men who make the league on grit, and determination and more talent than most will ever know. Obomanu once appeared to be a rising star after an eye-opening 2007 training camp. He looked like the next great offensive weapon for Holmgren and Matt Hasselbeck. There was a pre-season game in San Diego where Obomanu went off and looked like a fantastic deep threat from the slot. That breakout year never materialized, and an injury that wiped his 2008 season off the books officially set his career into the slow lane.
He fought his way onto the 2009 roster as a special teams standout, but only caught four passes all year on a squad so bad the coach was fired after a single season. He made the 2010 roster despite another new coach who was turning over the roster like a rototiller. T.J. Houshmandzadeh was the big name in more ways than one, and he was gone. Deion Branch had been acquired for a first-round pick. Gone. Yet, Obomanu remained. His quiet determination and willingness to contribute anywhere and everywhere made him valuable in a way that most NFL egos cannot handle.
Ricardo Lockette, for example, has immense physical talents, but refused to contribute on special teams. He very well may have found a roster spot by now if he had applied himself to the less glamorous aspects of football. Where many people saw garbage duty, Obomanu saw a way to help his team and himself.
His hard work was rewarded during that 2010 season when he eventually ascended to the starting role opposite Mike Williams. He had more receptions in 2011, but his 2010 season was the best. In one three week span, Obomanu totalled 14 reception 306 yards 21.9 YPC and 2 TDs. That included a sparkling 5 catch 159 yard game against the Chiefs.
That season earned Obomanu a contract extension from Pete Carroll and John Schneider as he became a shining example of how everyone on the roster would be given a chance to compete and contribute. A new contract in the NFL generally buys you at least one year of security. That was the case with Obomanu.
Seattle had Lockette, Golden Tate, Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Charlie Martin all competing with him at split end. There was real question again whether he would make the final roster. Lockette flashed early and then faded in the face of competition from Owens. Tate ascended and Edwards impressed. Yet, Obomanu remained.
He had earned the respect of his teammates and coaches over the years. He could play any of the receiver spots. He would fill in on special teams in any way that would help the team win. His career in Seattle would eventually come to end because his salary had to be applied to other pressing needs. The stars will always get paid in this league. It is the hard hat workers like Obomanu and Leon Washington that are sacrificed.
It would be easy for Obomanu’s exit from the Seahawks to be as quiet as his entrance. Most fans will wring their hands more over a player like Washington’s exit because he was such a fan favorite (and for good reason). Recognizing the contributions of the NFL’s silent professionals, like Obomanu, matters more. He has become part of the fabric of this organization for seven seasons, without ever griping when things did not break his way. He seized the opportunities he was given. He leaves now to hopefully get a better opportunity with another team, but he will always be a Seahawk. Thanks, Ben, and good luck.