Football

Former Mizzou tackle Justin Britt brings grit to Seahawks offensive line

Former Missouri offensive lineman Justin Britt stood behind Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and next to tackle Garry Gilliam (79) before a game against San Francisco.
Former Missouri offensive lineman Justin Britt stood behind Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson and next to tackle Garry Gilliam (79) before a game against San Francisco. The Associated Press

The moment was never too big for former Missouri offensive tackle Justin Britt.

Once Britt was selected by the defending Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks with the final pick of the second round of the 2014 draft, he was determined to make an immediate impact.

Veteran Breno Giacomini left the Seahawks through free agency, opening the right tackle spot, and Britt jumped right in, starting all 16 regular-season games for the NFC champions.

“I came in with a goal to start, and I reached for the stars,” said Britt, who was primarily a left tackle at Missouri. “When I got drafted, they trusted me, so I’d be foolish not to trust myself.

“I was definitely honored and blessed to be part of this organization which is on the rise and has so much to prove still. It’s been a fun ride, and I wouldn’t have wanted to go to any other team.”

Britt, a 6-foot-6, 325-pounder from Lebanon, Mo., suffered a knee injury during the Seahawks’ playoff victory over Carolina and sat out the NFC Championship Game against Green Bay. But he said he’s recovered and expects to start in Super Bowl XLIX on Sunday against New England.

“He hasn’t played like a rookie,” said left tackle Russell Okung, a starter since the Seahawks selected him in the first round of the 2010 draft. “Every day he comes to work prepared, and he really wants to be a great player.”

When Britt reported to training camp, he was thrust into practice against the NFL’s top-ranked defense and ends like Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, which accelerated Britt’s development.

“Going against them, it makes you better every day,” Britt said. “In practice, if we can move the ball against the No. 1 defense in the league, it builds confidence for us. But at the same time, we’re a good running team, and it’s helped our defense in their run defense.

“It was like when we were at Missouri and we had those defensive ends …”

At Missouri he went against the likes of Kony Ealy, a second-round pick in 2014 by Carolina, and outside linebacker Michael Sam; as well as Shane Ray and Markus Golden, who project to be high draft picks this spring.

“I got a bunch of different looks,” Britt said of his college days. “Kony was a powerful defensive end, and Shane Ray and Mike were speed and elusive guys, so you got to see a bunch of looks, kind of like what we have here. You have so many different looks, it helps prepare you for anything on game day.”

Britt, starting in the nationally televised season opening win against Green Bay, helped the Seahawks rush for 207 yards (a 5.6-yard average), and he continued to pave the way for running back Marshawn Lynch’s monster season.

The Seahawks led the NFL with a franchise record 2,762 rushing yards, the third highest total in the NFL since 1985, and as with most teams, running over the right tackle is the staple for any ground game. The Seahawks might not have had that kind of success had Britt not been such a quick study.

“It takes a little while to figure out what you’re doing for most of the guys,” said Seattle center Max Unger. “He did a great job answering a pretty tall order, starting all the regular-season games. They have a strong idea who they wanted to bring into this offensive line, and he fits into our group pretty well. He’s a strong, tough guy.”

Though Britt grew up a few hours from Kansas City, he wasn’t a fan of the Chiefs or any particular NFL team.

“I grew up an NFL fan,” he said. “I have favorite players, not favorite teams. One of my favorite players was Michael Vick. There are not a lot of linemen who are flashy out there or get the ball. I picked someone you got to see do good things.”

Britt’s parents, brother and wife Alicia and 2-year old daughter will be in University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday night to watch Britt and the Seahawks do some good things against the Patriots.

The biggest lesson Britt has learned in his rookie season?

“Every game is just as important as the last,” he said. “Every team is good enough to win the championship. That’s the way you have to go into it. Every week is a championship game.”

To reach Randy Covitz, call 816-234-4796 or send email to rcovitz@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @randycovitz.

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