Bradley McDougald is no stranger when it comes to learning the ropes from a veteran.
After going undrafted out of Kansas in 2013, McDougald served the role of apprentice during his first two seasons with the Chiefs and Buccaneers, absorbing everything he could watching and playing alongside experienced safeties such as Eric Berry, Kendrick Lewis, and Quintin Demps.
Even when he signed a one-year deal with the Seahawks in 2017, McDougald continued to seek out knowledge from Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, two staples of the team’s famous “Legion of Boom” secondary.
Now entering his seventh NFL season, the tables have officially turned. With Seattle entrenched in a multi-year youth movement, McDougald has happily transitioned into the mentorship phase of his career, ready to fully take the torch after Thomas left for Baltimore in free agency.
“I just try to do for those young guys, the same way they did for me.” McDougald said. “It’s ‘each one, teach one,’ and you don’t hide any information from anybody. You see something, you say something.”
As part of the team’s new 11-player draft class, the Seahawks used two picks in April to select safeties Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi in an effort to bolster competition in the secondary.
While they’ve been teammates for less than two months, McDougald kept close tabs on both rookies during Seattle’s offseason program as he sat out recovering from knee surgery. When asked for his early read on both players, he praised them for their athleticism and was especially complimentary of Amadi.
“I really, really like him. He’s small, but he’s quick. He moves well and I’ve seen him play a nickel and free safety. He’s just getting better every day. He’s really taken advantages of these reps.”
Despite missing mandatory minicamp due to a sore hamstring, the hard-hitting Blair also has left a positive impression on McDougald in their short time working together.
“Marquise is a hell of a player too, you know. Everybody knows him for hitting and being aggressive, but his coverage is really good too. I feel like he’s raw. Like just a raw athlete. He just comes out there and he competes, he grinds, he’s fast and like everybody else, he’s got things to work on and a little growth into his playbook.”
Along with Amadi and Blair, the Seahawks will open camp with returning starter Tedric Thompson, key reserve Lano Hill, and third-year safety Shalom Luani. When the team reports on July 25, those three players will be 24, 23, and 25 years old respectively, further illustrating the youth surrounding McDougald.
Easily the grizzled veteran of the safety group at 28 years old, McDougald has taken the onus to pass on everything he’s learned during his time in the NFL.
“You never know when we’re going to need them to step up and make a big play for us because at the end of the day, we need our youngest guys to be as knowledgeable as our older guys,” McDougald said. “And everybody to be on the same accord as far as talent wise. So [I’m] just doing what I can for those guys.”
With Chancellor and Thomas no longer on the team, McDougald emerged as the heart and soul of Seattle’s revamped secondary last season. Playing through a partially torn patellar tendon for half of the year, he started all 16 games and finished with 73 tackles, three interceptions, and three forced fumbles.
Still, as expected from a player who didn’t hear his name called on draft day, McDougald feels he still has much left to prove. While he’s embraced helping the youngsters find their way, he plans to show what playing in Seattle’s secondary is all about through his actions on the field.
“I feel like it’s an honor that they look up to me or ask me questions or view me as a certain way because of years in the league or experience. But a part of that too is doing it. It’s easy to say something, it’s easy to point your finger, but I feel like going out there and just showing them the right way to do it, the right way to play, it does more for anybody than anything.”