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Seahawks-Bucs: Injuries at tailback give George Farmer an opening with Seattle

SEATTLE — The football team at Serra High in Gardena, Calif., in 2009 featured a secondary/receiving corps with four players who would go on to be taken in the NFL draft — three in the second round.

There was a time, though, when one member of that team who would not be so fortunate when it came to the draft — George Farmer — was considered maybe the best of them all.

"George is just a freak athlete," said Seahawks receiver Paul Richardson, who was one of the quartet of Serra High players on the 2009 team who went on to be drafted, the others being Robert Woods and Marqise Lee, each also later stars at USC who became second-round picks, and Bene Benwikere, who played at San Jose State and was a fifth-round pick.

That freak athleticism — Farmer ran 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters in a high school track meet — helped him become one of the most highly touted football recruits in the country in fall 2010 (he was one of the receivers on the Parade Magazine All-American team that year, a group that also included Kasen Williams).

But after signing at USC, where Farmer was initially recruited by Pete Carroll before Carroll headed to the Seahawks, things began to go awry.

A variety of injuries and ailments big and small — including a bite from a brown recluse spider as a sophomore and a torn ACL as a junior — resulted in Farmer's college career generally being considered a disappointment. He had just 30 catches for 363 yards in three seasons at USC.

It also resulted in Farmer going undrafted after deciding to leave school with one year of eligibility left following the 2014 season.

Farmer, though, is again a teammate of Richardson's, having been promoted from the Seahawks practice squad to the active roster this week to add depth at the injury-riddled tailback spot for Sunday's game against the Bucs.

And Richardson predicts his former high school teammate may finally be in the right place at the right time to fulfill all the promise he showed at Serra.

"He has great size (listed at 6 feet 1, 220 pounds); he's fast," Richardson said. "And he's earning (the coaches) trust. I think we are about to see that he's going to do really well."

Not that anyone really expected the Seahawks would be calling on him right now. But Farmer's promotion this week typified a Seattle running back situation that has had its share of unexpected twists and turns all season.

After surprisingly releasing Christine Michael last week, the Seahawks seemed set to go the rest of the year with Thomas Rawls, C.J. Prosise and Troymaine Pope at tailback with rookie Alex Collins also in the mix as needed.

But then Prosise broke a shoulder blade and Pope suffered a high ankle sprain against the Eagles, and the Seahawks suddenly had an opening.

For once, Farmer's timing was good.

He has been with the Seahawks off and on since training camp in 2015 (he had a brief stint with the Cowboys, as well) and been used variously as a cornerback, a receiver and a running back (he played running back for a time in 2011 at USC before concentrating on receiver).

Farmer was making a serious run up the depth chart as a third-down back in training camp, in part due to injuries to Prosise, before suffering an injury on the day before the final exhibition game at Oakland.

Farmer said his foot "got stepped on and kind of twisted up a little bit." The Seahawks waived Farmer as injured, though also indicating to him they'd bring him back later.

Farmer said he needed about six weeks to get healthy, and the Seahawks then re-signed him to the practice squad in November. He likely would have stayed there if not for the injuries to Prosise and Pope, the latter of whom figures to be out for a week or two.

With Prosise sidelined, Rawls is now the starter, with Collins as his backup. But Farmer figures to be active Sunday at Tampa, potentially seeing action as a third-down back, if not more, depending on how events unfold.

"We're not scared to put him in there," said offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell.

And if he does get in, then he'll finally be where everyone once expected him to be, even if few could have anticipated the route he took to get there.

"Life is unpredictable," Farmer said. "You've just got to know how to weather adversity and overcome it. So that's what I look at. I just look back at that and I wouldn't change a thing. I'm thankful for every moment, and my journey up until this point made me a lot of who I am."

Seahawks-Bucs: Injuries at tailback give George Farmer an opening with Seattle 11/25/16 [Last modified: Friday, November 25, 2016 12:20am]
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