With Graham out, Cooper Helfet hopes to catch on with improved blocking

Dec 2, 2015, 10:05 AM | Updated: 10:34 am
Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his foot. (AP)...
Seahawks tight end Cooper Helfet will undergo surgery for a broken bone in his foot. (AP)
(AP)
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Cooper Helfet is four inches shorter and has about 420 fewer catches than his teammate Jimmy Graham. But the fourth-year tight end won’t be asked to carry the entire load with the three-time Pro Bowler out of the lineup.

“Really, really big shoes to fill,” Helfet said on 710 ESPN Seattle’s “Danny, Dave and Moore.” “Figuratively and literally, obviously.”

With Graham sidelined for the rest of the season, the former undrafted free agent’s role is expected to increase. The 26 year old will likely be the primary back-up to Luke Willson, and has shown improvement as a blocker after primarily being a receiving threat at Duke.

“Being a smaller tight end, you’ve got to really use technique and leverage, beat the guy to the punch, have the right steps and footwork, hat placement and all of that stuff to really get the job done,” said Helfet, who is listed as 6-foot-3, 239 pounds. “It just really comes with reps, so luckily I’ve really just taken what they’ve given me and tried to take it as far as I could and I’ve seen a lot of improvement in that field for sure.”

The fourth-year tight end caught 12 passes for 185 yards and two touchdowns in his first increased role last season. With Graham in the fold, he’s made just one catch for seven yards in 2015.

Helfet said he’s looking at Graham’s injury from Seattle’s typical “next man up” perspective.

“That’s kind of the mentality of our team: Fill in when you need to when your name is called and make the plays you know you’re capable of making,” he said. “So I’m ready to rock, and have been all season, and yeah, hopefully I get the chance now.”

Other highlights from the conversation:

&#8226 Helfet is popular among the female 12s, thanks to his side-job as a model, but said that job has been placed on hold.

“I’ve taken a little break on the modeling venue,” he said. “There’s not too many gigs up here in Seattle.”
He said teammates sometimes give him a hard time about his part-time posing, with someone even creating a “Zoolander” meme with his face on it.

“They try and give me a hard time and then I show them the paychecks and they’re like, ‘OK, we see it, we see what’s going on here,'” he said.

&#8226 Helfet had an interesting route to the NFL, earning a college scholarship to John Hopkins for lacrosse before eventually switching to community college and landing on the Duke football team.

“(Lacrosse) just wasn’t my passion,” he said. “I figured if I was going to be working that hard I might as well take it at football, my passion.”

&#8226 Helfet caught passes at the end of his senior season through his NFL Pro Day from Peyton Manning, who at the time was rehabbing from his major neck surgeries and looking for a new team.

“I got to catch balls from him every day and he’d give me pointers,” he said. “It was honestly a great little transition to come to the pro level because he just kind of gave me a bunch of tips and pointers, and obviously I got to catch from one of the greatest of all-time for a couple months there.”

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With Graham out, Cooper Helfet hopes to catch on with improved blocking