"That he a big ass dude who can move like that."
That’s how Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch described D.K. Metcalf’s magical playoff debut. After having just set multiple rookie records in his first postseason appearance, the phrase is fitting.
At 22 years old, Metcalf has barely scratched the surface of his immense potential with Sunday only serving as a fraction of what his size and speed are truly capable of.
After enduring a draft process filled with divisive opinions, Metcalf’s success has already thrown a big middle finger to all of the doubters, defying the “bust” label constantly used to describe his game. With his seven-catch, 160-yard performance against the Philadelphia Eagles last week, the haters have vanished like a Thanos snap, discrediting the ignorant takes that have been consuming social media for months.
Ultimately, from his hyped college career to his early Seattle stardom, there’s no doubting Metcalf’s football journey has been unique. Then again, so is he.
If you want proof that Metcalf isn’t your prototypical human, look no further than his extraordinary physique.
Going viral after a shirtless picture was captured last February, Metcalf’s massive muscles have quite literally set the internet on fire with everything from steroid accusations to memes resulting from a single photo. Metcalf’s immense strength, however, goes far beyond a blurry camera lens.
Metcalf has been training since a young age and worked out with his father, Terrence — a former Chicago Bears offensive lineman — in his early years. He was able to squat 100 pounds by the age of five, showing all the makings of a future star.
By ninth grade, Metcalf was squatting 500 pounds — the weight of approximately 30 bowling balls — with little to no trouble. But Metcalf’s gifted abilities were no accident.
“He would come in before school, sometimes as early as 6 a.m., and train on his own to make sure he was doing what he needed to do to be where he needed to be physically,” said Chris Cutcliffe, Metcalf's high school coach. “There aren't many high school athletes that are willing to work like he worked.”
Metcalf was benching 275 pounds and deadlifting 585 pounds by his senior year, a testament to his work ethic and determined drive. The wideout was able to muscle his way to a full scholarship from the University of Mississippi. He followed his father’s legacy and landed on campus as an 18-year-old with a shredded 205-pound frame. Unsurprisingly, his progress didn’t stop there.
Injured his freshman year with a broken foot, Metcalf used the time off to further explore what he did best: upgrading his body. He exercised twice a day for over four months and worked feverishly with Ole Miss’ strength staff during his time off. Metcalf was hitting smaller muscles he “never knew he had,” while going through intense arm training every day.
He reached a staggering 6-foot-4, 235 pounds by the time he declared for the NFL draft. That same stature has now been able to grace the field in Seattle, where Metcalf currently dominates opponents with ease.
Despite all of the hype, memes and viral photos, Metcalf still wants you to know he’s more than just an eight pack. However impressive his muscles may be, they don’t define him. As the receiver concisely put it, “I'm more than just an athlete.”
Here’s some food for thought.
What if, instead of bulldozing defenders on Sunday, Metcalf was making chicken alfredo at your favorite restaurant? It might seem improbable, but it was a lot closer to happening than you probably realize.
Ever since he was dominating youth leagues, Metcalf’s other dream is to become a chef.
“I know when I'm done playing football, I want to open up my own restaurant,” Metcalf wrote in The Players Tribune. “When I was in college, I worked at probably the only Italian restaurant in Oxford, Mississippi. Working at the restaurant, I used to always just sit in the back, eat the bread and watch the chefs cook and how they can, like, come together, basically like a football team.”
Metcalf’s culinary expertise combines with some impeccable taste. When asked in a GQ interview what his favorite steak sauce was. He answered: “If a steak is good enough, it doesn’t need any sauce.”
Not only is this the only correct answer, but Metcalf understands how crucial it is to use the steak to its strengths. There’s no reason to add unnecessary flavors and make it something it’s not.
Ironically, the Seahawks felt the same way about a similarly rare Metcalf. As it became very clear on draft day, not every team did.
That’s the number of receivers taken before Metcalf in the 2019 draft.
Passed over because of medicals and not, one, not two, but three orange pylons, Metcalf was one of the most controversial prospects in recent memory with his game seemingly nitpicked to death by analysts and scouts alike.
It didn’t matter that he was 235 pounds and running a 4.33 40-yard dash. Or that he scored a touchdown on one of every five touches at Ole Miss. Or even that he looked like a Greek god in shorts. Metcalf was criticized heavily before the draft and took heat for his poor change of direction ability and certain hand-picked statistics.
In a lot of ways, sauce was poured all over Metcalf’s hypothetical steak during the evaluation process, stripping him of everything he did best.
The receiver still had his fans in the draft community, but wild hyperbole existed on both sides of the spectrum. After a porous 3-cone drill at the combine, the negativity came out in full force.
Metcalf registered a time worse than Tom Brady in the drill, and he was named a one-trick pony who “turned like a battleship.” What these people failed to realize, however, was that suffering in that area was perfectly fine.
As an elite vertical threat with the per target and per catch averages to match, agility wasn’t Metcalf’s game, nor should it have been. A receiver of his size shouldn’t be able to compete with shifty slot receivers in tight spaces, just like they shouldn’t be able to compete with Metcalf in field-stretching situations.
Unfortunately, that same logic didn’t register with most. Whether they were jealous, overthinking or straight up lazy, people succumbed to the 3-cone madness, dropping him on boards and wasting their time with worthless discussions.
Now, many of the concerns regarding Metcalf’s play were understandable. Taking a player coming off of neck surgery with a relatively low production profile and limited route-running was a risk. However, that risk was well worth the gamble once you actually dug into the film and considered Metcalf’s enormous upside.
After a devastating wait on Draft Day, the Seahawks ended up taking a shot with the 64th pick. Roughly 200 days later, I think it’s safe to say they don’t regret the much-debated decision.
As Metcalf cried tears of joy through the telephone, Seahawks general manager John Schneider sat on the other end.
“We’re gonna make you a Seahawk,” Schneider proclaimed as he grinned from ear to ear.
Whether or not taking Metcalf this low was all part of some master plan remained to be seen, but one thing was clear: Schneider was happy. After last Sunday’s monstrous performance against Philadelphia, that happiness has been more than justified.
Integrating into Seattle’s vertical passing offense more smoothly than even he probably predicted, Metcalf’s rookie season has been a revelation. Embracing the Seahawks quirky and energetic environment, he's developed instant chemistry with Russell Wilson and his position buddy Tyler Lockett, en route to an impressive 58-900-7 line in his first pro season. Retweeting 3-cone memes, taking his shirt off alongside coach Pete Carroll and even flexing on opponents with his pacifier mouthguard, Metcalf has become a fan favorite in just a few short months. He's also consistently the last player off the field, often spending hours of extra work catching passes.
Metcalf has fortunately been put in the right situation with the right quarterback, but his success has been a major learning lesson for all parties involved in his highly-debated evaluation. Sometimes it’s best to focus on what a player can do rather than what they can’t, and that’s seemed to be proven vital in this case.
Yes, Metcalf has experienced first-year bumps. He has been inconsistent in contested situations and suffered a brutal fumble in an early-season loss to the Baltimore Ravens. But his strengths have won out in the grand scheme of things with his combination of size, speed and smarts looking like a lethal proposition for years to come.
Simply put, Metcalf’s one of a kind nature — both on and off the football field — has grabbed hold of the NFL. With his most recent playoff performance, there’s little reason to think he will let go anytime soon.