Seattle Seahawks Walter Thurmond III: From Forgotton Man to Franchise Cornerstone?

Walter Thurmond III #28 above. Photo courtesy of seahawks.com

The first week of the regular season is now in the books and the Seattle Seahawks sit comfortably at 1-0. Though they were favored over the Carolina Panthers this past weekend, Seattle’s record in morning games on the east coast has been less than spectacular over the years. Therefore fans entered the weekend with some reason for concern. After all, they were playing a young Carolina team that finished red hot down the stretch in 2012 and showed real promise. To make things even more difficult, the Seahawks were without Pro-Bowl cornerback Brandon Browner, who was nursing a hamstring injury. Luckily for Seattle fans, a forgotten fourth-round draft pick from 2010 stepped in and showed he was more than just preseason hype.

A mild level of shock and disbelief emanated from the Pacific Northwest when final cuts were announced for the Seattle Seahawks this season. Antoine Winfield—a former Pro-Bowl cornerback who was acquired via free agency this past offseason—was released prior to week 1. Though he was brought in to be the final piece to Seattle’s infamous secondary—a group which is widely considered the best in the league already—he didn’t even make it to the regular season. Winfield lost his presumed job to Walter Thurmond III, a 2010 fourth-round draft pick out of the University of Oregon.

Thurmond sustained a serious leg/knee injury his final season in college, which caused him to drop substantially in the draft. Selected by Pete Carroll and John Schneider in the 2010 draft, Thurmond subsequently suffered from recurring injuries each year in the league, spending more time on Injured Reserve than off of it. However, his athleticism is off the charts and he has an uncanny knack for being in the right place at the right time when healthy. After finishing last season on Injured Reserve, Thurmond finally seems completely healthy and he consistently showed throughout this preseason exactly why he deserves to stick around in Seattle’s stellar secondary.
This preseason, Thurmond immediately took control of the starting nickel cornerback spot and never looked back. He never really allowed Antoine Winfield to get his foot in the door at the nickel spot which eventually led to Winfield’s release. This shows just how impressive Thurmond’s performances throughout the preseason and training camp were.

Even still, it’s fair for fans to have some remaining doubts. After all, it seems like there are tons of players around the league that perform well in exhibition games but never amount to anything in the regular season. However, watching the Seahawks game tape from Sunday will erase any doubts over Thurmond’s ability to perform. This young man is special and truly has the ability to be a game-changer on defense and in the return game.

With Brandon Browner sidelined for week 1, Thurmond found himself in the starting lineup for the Seattle Seahawks. It certainly proved to be a night of redemption for the young man. He effectively shut down half of the field playing opposite All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman. Thurmond looked like a legitimate starting cornerback in the NFL on Sunday. He was never caught out of position and proved perfectly capable of lowering his shoulder and making a big hit. He seems to understand the intricacies of Pete Carroll’s defense now and his increased game speed is proof.

Unsurprisingly, it appears that Seattle may have developed yet another budding star for their secondary. With second-year cornerback Jeremy Lane showing serious potential behind Thurmond as well, they seem to have a ridiculous amount of depth on the defensive side of the ball and particularly at cornerback. If Thurmond can make it through 16 games this season, Seattle may find themselves in the intriguing—and possibly unfortunate—position of having to choose who they keep in the long run. Regardless of what Seattle decides, Walter Thurmond III has proven that he is a valuable commodity and capable of developing into a special player. In fact, watching his play as of late, it’s possible he already has.