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Wednesday, June 16, 1999 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Seahawk Notebook -- Undrafted French Has A Lot To Prove

Seattle Times Staff Reporter

KIRKLAND - He lives in Mississippi, but Rufus French won't travel far when Seahawk minicamp concludes today.

While many of his teammates rush to Sea-Tac Airport to catch flights for home or tropical locales, the Seattle rookie will drive 10 minutes to a motel that's been his digs for the past four weeks.

He's decided to remain in town for another month and continue to work out at Seahawk headquarters. Then he'll fly home to Amory, Miss., for a two-week visit before reporting to training camp in Cheney next month.

"I just decided to stick around here, you know?" French said with a laugh. "It's just something I had to do. You know?"

His words are cryptic, but to understand his motivations all you need to know is French is the college superstar everybody forgot about on draft day. He won more awards and honors than most of the players taken in the draft, but none of that seemed to matter.

"I don't know why I wasn't drafted," said the 6-3, 257-pound tight end. "I ask myself that a lot, but I try to stay away from it. I'm a firm believer in the man up above and that things happen for a reason."

All he knows is after the pre-draft combine, things went bad.

French caught 35 passes for 386 yards at Ole Miss and was chosen to seven All-America teams. He led Southeastern Conference tight ends in receptions and was a first-team all-SEC selection.

French had "can't miss" written all over him and decided to leave school after his junior season. Many draft analysts rated him the No. 2 or No. 3 tight end and projected he would be taken no later than the third round.

"Before the draft," French said, "I wasn't trying to hear the fourth round."

That was before he took a physical at the pre-draft combine and trainers and scouts inspected his injured right shoulder that was so damaged that French could not lift his arm over his head.

He hurt it midway through the 1998 season and nobody seemed to care much at the time. Suddenly, it was big news.

"A lot of people questioned my shoulder and they say that's what it was," French said. "But . . . you never know. You'll never be able to get rid of that (feeling).

"Sometimes now, I'll lie around and think about it. Because there's a lot of injured guys that have gotten picked in the sixth or seventh round. And I saw a lot of guys (get drafted) that didn't do what I did."

With the Seahawks, French is fourth on the depth chart behind Itula Mili, Deems May and Christian Fauria. However, Fauria is recovering from major ankle surgery and Mili and May combined for just four catches and 27 yards last season.

Coach Mike Holmgren gave a favorable impression of French at the rookie minicamp and so far French hasn't done anything to harm that impression.

"I'm not really thinking about starting or playing or anything like that," French said. "I've got one goal and that's to try and prove everybody wrong. It may not be this year and it may not be a couple of years from now, but that's my goal."

Two-minute thrills

Practice heated up during a two-minute, non-contact drill that pitted the No. 1 offense against the No. 1 defense.

Quarterback Jon Kitna looked good early as he connected with receiver Sean Dawkins for a 15-yard completion on fourth-and-8. However, the drive ended when safety Jay Bellamy intercepted a Kitna pass intended for Dawkins.

Backup quarterback Glenn Foley was extremely efficient as he guided the No. 2 offense 50 yards for a touchdown in three plays. Foley took advantage of a miscue in the secondary and threw a 30-yard pass to receiver Chris Jackson, who raced into the end zone untouched.

"When you're that open, you just have to trust that your quarterback will see you," Jackson said.

Reserve quarterback Brock Huard had little success with the No. 3 offense that gained just 13 yards and was plagued by overthrown passes and dropped balls.

Move over, Pacino

When his NFL career is over, Seahawk running back Ricky Watters hopes to make a splash in Hollywood. He has a small speaking part in one of the Seahawks' two new 30-second commercials and a cameo appearance in Oliver Stone's upcoming film, "On Any Given Sunday," starring Al Pacino.

Watters plays a football player, but his time on the screen is limited.

"I need more than that," he said, laughing. "I need to expand myself. They don't understand what I can do. They don't know (my) skill level."

Notes

-- Holmgren returned to Seattle yesterday and was expected to lead practice today. He had been in Green Bay and missed the past four workouts.

-- Receiver/returner Charlie Rogers pulled his right hamstring early in practice.

-- The Seahawks signed Dustin Johnson, a 6-2, 236-pound fullback who was chosen in the sixth round of the 1998 draft by the New York Jets.

Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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