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How Seahawks rookie Jake Bobo plans to show speed isn’t everything for an NFL receiver

RENTON — Can what Geno Smith calls “confidence and swag’’ make up for a lack of speed?

That is essentially the question at the heart of Jake Bobo’s quest to make it with the Seattle Seahawks.

Bobo signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent out of UCLA following last April’s draft.

He doesn’t skirt the issue of why his name went uncalled.

“I didn’t run a great 40,’’ he says.

In fact, Bobo ran 4.99 seconds in the 40-yard dash at UCLA’s Pro Day in March that was slower than any of the 51 receivers who ran at the NFL combine.

After recording that time, Bobo said he held out little hope of getting drafted despite having impressed during his one season at UCLA last fall after transferring from Duke, catching 57 passes for 817 yards. “

Bobo says he’s hoping to prove that receiving in the NFL is about more than just speed.

“Let’s be honest,’’ he said. “The whole combine process isn’t exactly suited to what I do best. I didn’t really feel I could showcase what I could do.’’

What Bobo says he can do is get open by any way possible, using his size — he’s listed at 6 feet 4, 207 pounds — and craftiness to make up a lack of speed.

 “At the end of the day you are not always going to beat everybody with speed,’’ he said. “I think there’s an art to route running. I obviously haven’t mastered it yet, but I do a pretty good of finding space whether that’s in zone, beating man coverage, using change of pace and different things where I can get away with not being the fastest guy and being able to get open and catch the ball.’’

To be sure, he’s begun to make believers of the Seahawks. 

After continually making plays in OTAs and minicamp and early in training camp, he led the Seahawks with seven catches for 76 yards and a TD in the mock game a week ago Friday. He led the Seahawks with 55 yards receiving on three catches and another TD against the Vikings.

“Bobo has been doing a great job,’’ Smith said after the mock game. “Ever since minicamp and OTAs, he was a guy that was showing up on tape and making plays consistently. He’s a guy that knows his assignment and has a lot of confidence and swag. Everyone around here loves Bobo. We’re happy to see him make those plays because he can be a really good player.”

So what does Smith mean by “confidence and swag’’ Bobo is asked?

He responds with a laugh.

“You know, I’m not sure,’’ he says before mentioning that maybe it has to do with his white socks. “I don’t know if there’s a little bit of confidence. I know what I’m doing. I know I can get open and catch the ball. So if that’s what he’s talking about I appreciate G for the shout out. I’ll take it, for sure.’’

But can he also take a roster spot?

It’s begun to look more likely, not only because of his play but because events such as Dee Eskridge being suspended for six games and injuries to a few other players.

“Obviously some of that news you catch it kind of in your peripheral vision,’’ he said earlier this week. “At the same time, those guys are really good players and they are going to be back at some point. For me it’s just going out every day and seeing if I can do better than the day before.’’

Even if he doesn’t make the 53-man roster, the Seahawks seem sure to want him on the practice squad. Continuing to play football is all Bobo has really wanted since the day in third grade he began to play. 

He began playing football in part to follow in the footsteps of his father, Mike, who was a receiver and punter at Dartmouth (and like his son does now, wore No. 19) and grandfather Keith, who was a quarterback at SMU in the 1970s and was a 12th round pick of the Cowboys in 1974.

“You always want to be like your dad, so I started playing in the third grade and I’ve been playing ever since,’’ he says.

Bobo also wanted to be like his mother, Casey, who played ice hockey at Dartmouth (he also has an aunt, Kully Hagerman Reardon who was a member of the United States team that won the bronze medal at the 2006 Winter Olympics).

“I played hockey until like the fifth grade and then my dad was tired of waking up at 6 a.m. and going down to cold skating rinks,’’ Bobo said.

Bobo says his dad “bribed” him with a pair of nice basketball shoes to take up that sport instead of hockey, while still playing football. 

He played both at Belmont Hill School in Belmont, Mass., where he drew interest from the likes of Army, Boston College and, yes, Dartmouth before signing with Duke. 

He spent four years at Duke finishing 17th in school history in receptions with 126 and 19th in yards with 1,441, and earning a degree in economics.

After the 2021 season, and with one year of eligibility left, he entered the transfer portal, choosing UCLA over Boston College.

“Love Duke,’’ he says. “I go back there to train in the offseason. Figured I’d take a shot (entering the portal). Take an adventure. See if I could win some ballgames.’’

He started all 13 games for a UCLA team that went 9-4, and had a career game when he caught six passes for 142 yards and two TDs to key a win over Washington.

Ending up back in Seattle, he says, was simply a matter of the team wanting him and looking at the opportunity he felt the Seahawks present. 

“Definitely was my No. 1 choice,’’ he said.

If it’s too early to say if he’s won a roster spot, he’s certainly won over his teammates with his play and an easygoing manner that makes him seem more like the UCLA guy he was for a year than a Massachusetts native.

“He’s been a fan favorite in the locker room, for sure,’’ Lock said after Thurdsay’s game. “‘More Bobo’ is the thing we like to say in the locker room. ‘Get Bobo the ball.’ He does everything right, man. He works really, really hard. … You throw a rookie out there, you get zero MEs (mental errors) in practices. I’m not saying he’s going to do zero the whole time, but he does the right thing. He’s in the right spots, knows his job, his assignment. That’s all you can ask for. His physical ability will take care of everything else.’’

After the Vikings game, Carroll pointed to Bobo’s effort to down a punt at the goal line, the kind of special-teams play it will take to earn a roster spot.

“He just continues to find ways,’’ Carroll said. “Really creative and athletic. Look at the great play he made on the punt. That was a perfect play there. He’s doing good stuff.’’

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