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August 9, 2013

Rookie Diary: Luke Willson





23 year old rookie to be Luke Willson was sitting at home with friends and family waiting on his phone to ring with hopes of being drafted by a team to which he could make an instant impact. He was getting the phone calls, but team after team continued to pass him over.

"To be honest it was actually quite stressful," Willson told Owls Insider of his wait during the 2013 NFL Draft. "I mean I kind of figured I would get drafted it was more a matter of when. It seemed like it took forever, there were a couple of teams that took tight ends that I thought could take me. There was one team that told me they might draft me but they ended up going a different way, so it was a very stressful day. When stuff like that starts happening doubts start creeping in your head."

His wait continued into the fifth round of the NFL Draft, he had just hung up the phone with the Philadelphia Eagles who told him they might take him in the next round, then not even two minutes later his phone rang again and it was the Seattle Seahawks.

"I worked out with Seattle but I never would have guessed that they were going to be the team to pick me," the 6-foot-5 pass catcher said. "But when the phone rang and that area code popped up from Washington, it was like the weight of the world was off of my shoulders."

The Seattle Seahawks picked Willson with the 158th pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, much later than he hoped to go, but he enters a situation in which he could be a contributor in 2013.

A week and a half later, Willson showed up for Seattle's rookie mini-camp, in what would be his first action as an NFL player and begin what would be a hectic summer for the former Rice standout.

"Pulling up for rookie mini-camp, that was pretty surreal," Willson said. "I went with my parents, so they kind of got to watch practice and all that. They put me up in a hotel and for the next month and a half or so it was OTF's and OTA's, then a mandatory mini-camp, and Rookie Symposium. After that I had about three and a half weeks to spend at home before training camp."

This summer Willson signed his first NFL contract, a four year 2.3 million dollar deal that starts with a base salary of $405,000 during his rookie season and gradually increases $90,000 each season. So what was the first thing he bought after signing his first contract?

"Golf Clubs," Willson said. "I've always enjoyed golfing so I went out and bought a pretty nice set of golf clubs."

Signing that first NFL contract was kind of a big deal for Willson, who admits that it's a big change from his days as an international student athlete.

"It was kind of cool," he said of his signing. "You know going from college where you can't even really have a real job. Because I'm from Canada, I was on a student visa so I actually couldn't work and make any money while I was at Rice because it's illegal. Living off the scholarship check at Rice was always kind of tough and then all of a sudden one day you sign your name on a dotted line as an NFL player and you have a pretty nice salary."

With his contract signed and first few months as a rookie now behind him Willson returned to Seattle to start training camp on July 25 and continues to live his first few months out of a hotel as he starts training camp with his new team.

"For the month and a half of training camp it's mandatory for all players to be in a hotel," Willson said of his living arrangements. "I know a lot of teams travel for camp and live in dorms at college campuses or hotels out of town and I don't know if it's rare or not but we're staying in Seattle and working out at our main facility."

"It's actually kind of nice, instead of staying at a dorm we're all in a really nice hotel, both the rookies and the vets," Willson added.

Getting a leg up in the NFL requires a lot of hard work and a lot of time put in, it's no different for Willson who gets his days started pretty early during the first week of camp.

"On lift days I wake up about 6am and on non-lift days I wake up at about 6:30-6:45 am," he said. "We have meetings in the morning and we usually practice around 10:00 am, we have meetings all afternoon and a walk through at night. The rookies usually meet after dinner around 8:30 pm, there's never a set timeline but I usually get back into the hotel around 8:45-9:00 pm."

While he and his teammates are putting in a lot of hard work, there is no slight when it comes to getting fed properly.

"The facilities have some top class food," the rookie tight end said. "Very nutritious stuff and it tastes great. I've been really impressed as far as the organization goes with the Seahawks and how everything works, They've really been taking care of everyone."

Willson has impressed through much of the early stages of training camp and expects that he should be able to contribute once the start of the regular season rolls around.

"My personal expectations are definitely to be able to contribute," he said. "Honestly I really haven't given it too much crazy thought. I'm still just trying to get better every day, compete and learn the fundamentals. Do I expect to contribute on offense? Definitely, but there are a lot of preseason games left and things will unfold. Later in camp I think I'll have a better idea of how that will play out."

Owls Insider will continue to chronicle the rookie life of Seattle Seahawks fifth round draft pick Luke Willson during his first season as an NFL player. Be sure to check back next week for our next installment of "Rookie Diary" with Luke Willson.

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