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Originally published Sunday, July 27, 2008 at 12:00 AM

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Steve Kelley

Young Seahawks receiver Courtney Taylor makes early impression

Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Courtney Taylor is strong enough to get off the line of scrimmage. He runs precise pass routes. He can catch the ball, break tackles and outrun cornerbacks. He can get into the end zone. Two days into training camp is too early and he still is too raw, but the Auburn University product is good and he just might be really good.

Seattle Times staff columnist

KIRKLAND — Pssst.

A mere two days into camp, it is too early to get too excited about too much.

But now, as the search begins to find the next young batch of Seahawks receivers, as this catching corps carves its routes into the grass, a buzz is beginning to swirl around Courtney Taylor.

Pssst.

Taylor is strong enough to get off the line of scrimmage. He runs precise pass routes. He can catch the ball, break tackles and outrun cornerbacks. He can get into the end zone.

Two days is too early and he still is too raw, but, pssst, Courtney Taylor is good, and he just might be really good.

"He's going to surprise some people," said receiver Bobby Engram, who is beginning his 13th season. "I'm not talking about people in this organization, but people around the league. He's going to be fun to watch.

"Right now, he's just trying to polish it up. I'm trying to help him on the little intricacies of being a good receiver; work ethic, attention to detail, attitude. But he's got all that. He's a naturally competitive guy."

One of the looming questions of this last Seahawks' camp in Kirkland is that status of the wide receivers. D.J. Hackett is gone. Deion Branch is hurt and is even money at best, to be ready for the opener in Buffalo.

Taylor, a 2007 sixth-round draft pick out of Auburn, is looking like an early answer. He could become someone really special.

"I can't get too excited, yet," offensive coordinator Gil Haskell said. "But he's one of those fellas who, once he catches the ball, he's running for a touchdown. Catching it isn't enough. He's bigger than the other guys we have and that gives us a different look outside."

Recruited for his athleticism by Auburn out of a tiny high school in Carrollton, Ala., Taylor, 6-foot-1, 205 pounds, was converted from a quarterback to a cornerback and finally to a pass catcher.

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Ben Obomanu, Taylor's teammate both at Auburn and now, laughs when he talks about the first days after Taylor's final conversion. He remembers the offseason drills when Taylor tried to make every catch look spectacular.

"That was me just trying to prove that I belonged," Taylor said.

You know the cliché about the guy who will run through walls for his team? Taylor practically took that literally.

"He'd almost run into the side of the practice building going after balls that were five yards out of bounds," Obomanu said. "He had the best effort of everyone out there. Even in the summer, when we were just running routes with the quarterbacks, no pads, no coaches, he was out there diving for balls.

"We joked with him sometimes that some of the catches he was making didn't have to be as hard as he was making them. But his effort to learn was really amazing and now all of that hard work is paying off."

Last summer, he was hurt in the debacle of a scrimmage at Memorial Stadium that also injured Obomanu and tight end Ben Joppru.

Taylor suffered a sprained knee, missed a couple of weeks of preseason practice and never had a real chance to catch up. He played eight games in his rookie season and caught five passes for 38 yards.

"It was frustrating," he said. "Getting hurt? Yes it did set me back, but at the same time I had some great guys that I learned from and I made some huge strides. I got heathy. I got better."

As he rehabilitated, he watched, listened to and mimicked Bobby Engram.

"I don't even know where to begin with that guy," Taylor said of Engram. "He basically takes all of us young receivers under his wing. He's been a huge, huge mentor to every last one of us."

Pssst.

A year later, Taylor is healthy and hungry.

"I just have that drive right now," he said. "When I was at Auburn they told me they were moving me to receiver and I said, 'Receiver?' I'd never caught a ball in my life. But I was up for the challenge. And now I'm working my butt off to prove I belong here. I want to compete and I want to make plays."

Taylor is the kind of young talent who makes it easy for a coach to get out of bed in the mornings. He's talented, motivated and eminently coachable. That doesn't mean he'll become the next great Seahawks' receiver. It just improves the odds.

"He's got some natural skills. The foot skill things kind of come easy to him," receivers coach Keith Gilbertson said. "He has good size and speed. He's bright. I think he's a talent and I'm excited about him, but I'm not ready to anoint him."

Pssst.

Pay attention to Courtney Taylor this summer.

The Seahawks are.

Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176

Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company

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About Steve Kelley
Steve Kelley covers all sports, putting his spin on matters involving both the home team and the nation.
skelley@seattletimes.com | 206-464-2176

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