By Jim Moore
RENTON – By not being invited to the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis, the league essentially told Benson Mayowa that he wasn’t good enough.
So he had to take a different route, but he’s used to taking detours after growing up in Inglewood, Calif. and playing his college ball in Moscow, Idaho.
Mayowa attended the Seahawks’ regional combine at the team’s headquarters in March and then went to the super-regional in Dallas. Coach Pete Carroll liked what he saw and invited him to the Seahawks’ minicamp, where the defensive end continued to impress the head coach.
“He has an unusual knack for rushing the passer,” Carroll said.
Undrafted out of Idaho, rookie pass rusher Benson Mayowa (95) is trying to turn a strong preseason into a spot on the Seahawks’ 53-man roster. (AP)
Now, as the Seahawks prepare to face the Packers Friday night, Mayowa has gone from “that Idaho kid” to a rookie with a legitimate chance of making the 53-man roster.
Injuries to Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Bruce Irvin have given Mayowa a bigger opportunity than he might have had otherwise, and in his first two preseason games, he has 2.5 sacks and four quarterback hurries, giving the Seahawks a consistent pass rush when he’s on the field.
He has played well against second- and third-stringers but struggled to be as productive against Denver’s first unit last Saturday night. That’s to be expected with a first-year player.
“Learning the speed of the game is the biggest transition for a college player,” said Seahawks defensive-line coach Travis Jones. “I coached at LSU, and the speed of the game isn’t the same. The players are a lot faster here.
“But he’s a good young player who’s full of energy. He’s athletic and has good quickness. He’s in the process of earning respect from veteran players. He’s really working hard to be a complete player.”
I spoke to Mayowa after practice on Monday. He’s an engaging, likeable kid. He admitted that he wasn’t a good student at Inglewood High School, and that had a lot to do with him ending up at Idaho, where former Washington State defensive coordinator Robb Akey was his first coach.
“He helped me all the way through,” Mayowa said of Akey. “I had a connection with him. If I was in trouble, he helped me out of it. He was like a father figure to me. I was so sad when he got fired.”
Mayowa started for the Vandals for four years but didn’t attract NFL attention after a so-so senior season. Understandably, Mayowa wasn’t fully engaged – his mom died of cancer last year.
“It shook me up, but it’s also made me a better person,” he said. “Anything that happens in life … every opportunity, you’ve got to grab it. It gave me extra motivation. It gave me the boost to make it. I play for her. I think about her every day.”
Mayowa has a picture of his mom tattooed on his right forearm.
“I play like I have nothing to lose,” he said.
No one wonders who No. 95 is anymore. He wasn’t in awe of Peyton Manning when he was trying to sack the Broncos’ quarterback Saturday night, and his pursuit of Aaron Rodgers will be more of the same Friday against Green Bay – it’s just another quarterback who needs to be flattened.
“Football is football no matter who you’re going against,” Mayowa told “Bob and Groz” this week. “That’s my goal. I’m gonna try to get him. I’m gonna tell him: ‘This is Inglewood’ when I get him.”
From Inglewood to Moscow to Seattle.
“It’s been a long journey,” Mayowa said.
But it’s one that could pay off with a role as an unlikely pass-rushing specialist for the Seahawks.
The Go 2 Guy also writes for his website, jimmoorethego2guy.com, and the Kitsap Sun. You can reach Jim at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @cougsgo.