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Maryland tight end Tyler Mabry’s patience rewarded with undrafted rookie deal with Seahawks

Maryland tight end Tyler Mabry reacts after his touchdown catch during a game against Temple, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia.
Maryland tight end Tyler Mabry reacts after his touchdown catch during a game against Temple, Saturday, Sept. 14, 2019, in Philadelphia. (Chris Szagola/AP)

Tyler Mabry had heard the projections that he was a Day 3 prospect in the NFL draft. So as Saturday began, the Maryland tight end settled in with his parents in their home in Warner Robins, Georgia, for what he thought would be a long, nerve-racking day.

But according to Mabry, the head scout for the Seattle Seahawks called him during the fourth round, and midway through the sixth round, another team representative said that the club would try to sign him to a free-agent deal after the draft.

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“Seattle kept calling me throughout the draft, talking, ‘Just stay patient. We want you, and we’ve got a plan for you,’” Mabry said. “I knew by the seventh round that I was signing with Seattle. So I already knew what was up. So I wasn’t even tripping.”

The Seahawks held up their end of the bargain and signed the 23-year-old Mabry.

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Mabry is the fourth Terp this year to find a franchise as an undrafted rookie, joining cornerback Tino Ellis (New Orleans Saints), outside linebacker Keandre Jones (Chicago Bears) and running back Javon Leake (New York Giants).

He said that the Atlanta Falcons also made an offer, but he decided to honor the commitment that Seattle had made to him.

“Seattle was the one for me,” he said. “I just knew that I could contribute to their offense. I’m a blocking tight end and can use my other skills to help the offense.”

The 6-foot-4, 248-pound Mabry was more than a blocker in three years at Buffalo. He caught 60 passes for 567 yards and three touchdowns there, including 27 receptions for 230 yards and two scores as a senior in 2018 that propelled him to being named a first-team All-Mid-American Conference choice.

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After picking the Terps over Alabama as a graduate transfer, Mabry caught 13 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns — the last of which ranked second on the offense. Unbeknownst to many, however, he was suffering from an inflamed bursa sac between his Achilles tendon and right heel bone that made it difficult for him to outrun and outjump defenders.

“I couldn’t block the same, I couldn’t run the same,” he said. “But I fought through it. I did [consider taking a game off], but I just felt like I had to fight for my team and give them the best that I can.”

Maryland coach Mike Locksley did not disclose Mabry’s injury. Instead, he expressed regret over not getting Mabry more involved in the passing offense.

“There’s no doubt that he’s more than just a run blocker,” Locksley said. “He was being covered by linebackers, and if he has the ability as a receiver to create separation and space, he has great hands and can catch everything in his vicinity. He’s definitely more than just a blocker. I would have loved to get him a few more targets per game. We had another tight end in [sophomore] Chig [Chigoziem Okonkwo] who had a few more catches, but not the production in terms of touchdowns.”

Mabry refused to point the finger at the Terps over the reduced receiving numbers.

“It wasn’t Maryland’s fault,” he said. “After I got hurt, I was just like, ‘Why would they throw to me when I’m hurt?’ So I knew my role and had to run with it.”

Mabry will join a Seahawks tight ends group that signed former Carolina Panther star Greg Olsen to a one-year, $7 million free-agent contract Feb. 18. The position already includes Will Dissly, who had 23 receptions for 262 yards and four touchdowns in six starts before tearing his Achilles tendon on Oct. 13, and Luke Willson, who finished the season with eight catches for 79 yards in seven starts.

“I just want to take all of their advice and watch what they do,” he said. “They’re the veterans, they know what to do, and they know how to do it.”

Mabry said he is just as excited about learning and catching passes from seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson.

“That’s going to be fun,” he said. “He’s a great leader, and I know he’s going to be a great mentor, too. So I’m just going to listen to everything that the veterans say.”

Considering that Seattle drafted two more tight ends in Stanford’s Colby Parkinson in the fourth round and LSU’s Stephen Sullivan in the seventh, Mabry said that he understands that his best chance to make the active roster is to fare well on special teams, which he played more frequently at Buffalo.

“I’m going to have to play a lot of special teams,” he said. “I’ve got to earn a spot. I’m used to it already. So they don’t have to teach me again. I can just go out there and do it.”

Locksley said that one of Mabry’s strengths will be his versatility on offense and special teams.

“He’s tough and big enough to block and allow you to get the run game started as an edge blocker,” Locksley said. “He’s really tenacious and fundamentally sound from a technique standpoint of how he does it. … I think he’s one of those guys that has a skill set that will lend itself. He can play on special teams, he can block, and he can be effective as a route runner in the passing game.”

Mabry will dive into the Seahawks’ virtual offseason program, but is looking forward to making the cross-country trip to Seattle, where he has never visited.

“I’ve heard that you can catch a lot of fish,” he said of the Emerald City. “I heard that’s where Starbucks was first made. That’s all I’ve got right now.”

Reminded that Seattle averages 34.1 inches of rain annually, Mabry said he prefers that over another type of precipitation.

“Rain is better than snow,” he said. “I lived in Buffalo.”

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