By Brady Henderson
When Doug Baldwin was seeking advice on how to improve his game during the summer, he went to the greatest receiver in Seahawks history.
“This training camp,” Steve Largent recalled, “Doug Baldwin started emailing me and he said, ‘Hey, Steve, I just really admire you and know your long history here at the Seahawks and I was just wondering if you had any tips for me?’ “
Of course he did. Largent, after all, had ended his Hall of Fame career in 1989 as the NFL’s all-time leader in receptions (819), receiving yards (13,089) and touchdown catches (100). He made seven Pro Bowls and twice led the league in receiving during his 14 seasons, all of which he spent in Seattle. Safe to say he picked up a thing or two along the way.
With 36 receptions for 586 yards through 11 games, Doug Baldwin is on pace for the best season of his career. (AP)
So when Baldwin reached out to him, Largent was happy to help.
“I just started with some of the basics and talked about some drills I worked on to catch the ball, some release drills that I worked on that were very helpful and just some basic stuff like that,” Largent told 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Wyman, Mike and Moore” Tuesday.
“So I emailed it back to Doug over a series of five or six emails and he kept texting me back saying, ‘Hey, Steve, I’ve been working on that in training camp – it really works. Thanks. Do you have anything else?’ And so I would send him another little something and he and I kind of developed an electronic relationship.”
Largent and Baldwin have a few things in common as receivers. Each was to varying degrees overlooked coming out of college, Largent a fourth-round pick in 1976 while Baldwin was undrafted in 2011. Like Largent, Baldwin doesn’t have elite speed or size. At 5-foot-10 and 189 pounds, he’s an inch shorter and two pounds heavier than what Largent was listed at.
The first piece of advice Largent gave Baldwin was about one of the more fundamental aspects of the position.
“What I shared with him were just some basics on, first of all, catching the football, because as I said to Doug, if you’re playing wide receiver, the most important thing you have to do is catch the ball consistently. It doesn’t matter how good of routes you run or how fast you are, how big you are, how tall you are, if you can’t catch the ball,” Largent said. “That’s the thing I always tried to focus on as a receiver is, I may not run the best routes, may not be the fastest guy, but I’m going to catch the ball if you throw it and I can catch it, and I would.
“And so I talked to Doug about just some drills that I would do in training camp in particular to heighten my focus, if you will, seeing the ball to my hands, and just talked him through that a little bit.”
Largent also shared with Baldwin some tips on beating press coverage for a clean release off the line of scrimmage.
“I wasn’t a real fast guy so I had to have to pretty good moves to get down field,” he said.
Baldwin is second on the Seahawks in receptions (36), receiving yards (586) and touchdown catches (three) through 11 games. He’s on pace to better his 2011 season when he became the first undrafted rookie since the merger to lead his team in receiving. His 16.28 yards-per-catch average this season is exceptional for receiver who has mostly operated out of the slot.
Largent – who is 59 and works in the wireless communications industry as president and CEO of a company called CTIA – was in Seattle earlier this month as he and other members of the 1983 Seahawks team were honored during a halftime ceremony at CenturyLink Field. That’s when he met Baldwin in person for the first time.
“He is a real student of the game and very impressive,” Largent said of Baldwin, “and I am impressed with watching him play this year.”
Follow Brady Henderson on Twitter @BradyHenderson.