7.10.17

Doug Baldwin: From Undrafted To Indispensible

Doug Baldwin

It may be hard to believe, but during the 2011 NFL Draft, receiver Doug Baldwin was passed on 254 times. Every single team had numerous chances to draft the future go-to wideout but they went a different route again and again. Obviously hindsight is 20/20, and he’s a much better player today than he was at that time, but going undrafted is a key page in Doug’s story. Heck, it could probably be its own chapter. It has been his greatest motivation, the fuel he’s used to overcome every career high and low.

“My teammates used to joke about that when I first got to Seattle,” Doug explained. “I would constantly talk about going undrafted and they’d say how tired they were of hearing about it. But that’s my passion.”

This mentality of an undrafted rookie is always going to be in the back of my mind and it allows me to never be complacent.
Doug Baldwin
WR, Seattle

Soon after that disappointing draft weekend, Seattle came calling to give Doug a chance as a rookie free agent. Doug took the opportunity and ran with it. The rookie out of Stanford wound up leading the team in receptions (51) and receiving yards (788). He made sure that every team knew his name and the mistake they had made.

His sophomore year was supposed to be his confirmation, the final nail in the coffin to those who doubted him. But 2012 didn’t go as planned. Doug hit a stumbling block, suffering ankle and shoulder injuries throughout the year and only managing 29 receptions and 366 yards.

Doug Baldwin

“It was tough, because I’m such a competitor. I thought I could just will myself through the pain,” he admitted. “I had such high expectations for myself, and it was a really pivotal time in my career, so falling short was just devastating. But I pushed myself too hard to get back too soon and that only made the injuries worse.”

It was a teaching moment for the wideout. “Hopefully a lot of athletes can learn from that — I know I did,” he said. “You need to listen to your body — you’re hurting for a reason. You’ve got to have the right approach to recovering and managing injuries the right way.”

And with his draft day snub still firmly etched in his mind, he returned with a vengeance in 2013. He logged 50 receptions, 778 yards, 5 TDs, and, most importantly, helped push Seattle deeper and deeper into the playoffs. As the games and stages got brighter, Doug only got better — delivering clutch catch after clutch catch.

His season culminated on February 2, 2014 in East Rutherford, New Jersey when his Seahawks squared off with the Denver Broncos for the world title.

“As a football player, I’d been dreaming about this moment for so long,” Doug said. “Here I was on the biggest stage the sport had to offer. Everything leading up to it was surreal — the interviews, the festivities, all of it. But then, it came time for the actual game and I had a job to do.”

Doug delivered, leading Seattle with 5 receptions, 66 yards, and a touchdown on the way to their first championship in team history. “When the game ended, the confetti started falling, we started celebrating — it was a dream come true,” he said. “But it was all so quick and I looked back and went, ‘Okay, what’s next.’ That’s the one thing about being so competitive: you’re never satisfied.”

Doug Baldwin

What came next was heartbreak of the highest order. After fighting their way back to a second consecutive world championship, Seattle lost in agonizing fashion. We all remember that insane Malcolm Butler interception that turned the game in New England’s favor.

“Going into that (next) season, we all had such high expectations,” Doug explained. “We thought ‘We’ve got to win it all again.’ But to lose in the fashion we did — that was devastating. We spent so much time getting to that point and then it just felt like it was pulled out from under us.” But he wasn’t downtrodden for too long — it wasn’t the first time he had an obstacle he needed to overcome.

“During that offseason, I told myself the same thing I did when I didn’t get drafted: ‘There’s so much to learn from it,’” Doug said. “At first, I was thinking, ‘What should we have done on that last play?’ But the truth was we shouldn’t have been in that situation. We had so many opportunities earlier in that game. So what I took away from that was: never take what happens early for granted, because you never know what will matter when it comes down to the wire.”

Doug focused internally, doing everything he could to take his skills to the next level. And that hard work led to more opportunities in 2015, not only for him, but for the Seattle receiving core as a whole. “That was the year we really started throwing the ball more,” he said. “Our receiver group is very close and we do stuff as a unit — that helps on the field because we all hold each other accountable.” Of course, Baldwin led the way, logging his first 1,000 yard season and tying for the league-lead in touchdown catches with 14.

And finally, in his latest season in the pros, everything came full circle. After setting new career highs, yet again, in receptions and receiving yards, Doug’s hard work finally got recognized by his peers when he was voted to his first Pro Bowl. But the growth he experienced that year was much bigger than just the stats.

“Last year was a very emotional year for me, both personally and professionally” he said. “I focused on being a better teammate and leader on the field and in the locker room, but I also got engaged. A lot of it was new to me and was a challenge, but it was fun and I learned a lot of valuable lessons.”

That brings us to today, as the now 28-year-old receiver gets ready for his seventh pro season, now firmly entrenched as the team’s go-to option. Could this be the year Doug wins his second world title? Will he set a new career high in receiving yards for the fourth year in a row? It could definitely happen — he’s got the talent, drive, and experience. But the one thing that we can say without a shadow of a doubt is: don’t ever count Doug Baldwin out.

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