‘All I needed was a shot.’ TCU’s Casey McDermott Vai hopes to show Seattle versatility

Casey McDermott Vai played more games last season than he did his first four years combined at TCU.

McDermott Vai lined up on the offensive line and defensive line. He played tight end and fullback. Whatever would get him on the field, McDermott Vai embraced.

He ended up playing in 11 games last season after his 2017 season was lost to an injury. He played in just six games as a sophomore in 2016, and one game as a redshirt freshman in 2015.

All of it’s paid off, though, as McDermott Vai is now pursuing a professional career and will take part in the Seattle Seahawks’ rookie minicamp this weekend.

“My journey has been really tough,” said McDermott Vai, who played high school football at Raytown South, a school in the Kansas City area.

“Coming from Raytown South to TCU ... I don’t know how to explain it. I’m super blessed to play football again with the Seattle Seahawks. My career here at TCU was a bumpy road with injuries and trying to find a spot for me to play. But I wouldn’t be here if that didn’t happen.”

McDermott Vai feels his college career, playing both offense and defense, will only help at the next level.

The Seahawks intend to work him out as a defensive lineman and fullback over the next three days, and see where he might fit in best. Fullback is considered a dying position, but some teams still value it greatly for short-yardage and goal-line situations.

McDermott Vai is open to anything that extends his playing days.

At 6-foot-3 and 270 pounds, McDermott Vai has the body and frame to make it at the next level. He said he’s changed his diet and training this off-season, too, in an effort to become less injury prone.

“A lot of people say, ‘This guy’s big and athletic, but can he stay healthy?’” McDermott Vai said. “So I’ve changed my habits, eating the right things and staying on top of my treatment. I’m 100 percent healthy right now.

“It’s been a tough journey, a tough process, but I’ve got a shot. That’s all I needed. Hopefully I’ll make the team and get a contract.”

McDermott Vai will have a couple familiar faces with him in Seattle.

The Seahawks used their first-round pick on TCU defensive end L.J. Collier, and are also bringing in linebacker Jawuan Johnson as an undrafted free agent to rookie minicamp.

“L.J. was my roommate for two years, we’re great friends,” McDermott Vai said. “When he was up there on his pre-draft visit, he sent me a video of him and Pete Carroll and I told him, ‘Seattle is pushing for me too,’ put in a good word. It’s crazy we’re both going up there. He gets drafted Thursday night, and I get a call from them on Saturday.”

McDermott Vai may not be a household name even to TCU fans, but he is an intriguing pro prospect. He had nothing but good things to say about Gary Patterson and the program.

McDermott Vai has an interesting back story, too, being of Samoan descent. He’s looking to become the next in line of Samoans in the NFL. Growing up in KC, McDermott Vai was familiar with former Chiefs and Seahawks defensive tackle Dan Saleaumua, a Pro Bowler in 1995, as well as other Polynesian NFL stars.

“I take a lot of pride in being Samoan,” McDermott Vai said. “Everyone always talks about Troy Polamalu and guys like that, so it’d be cool to carry that legacy in the NFL.”

Knox in Seattle

Another local player getting a look with the Seahawks is former Fort Worth All Saints product and Ohio State’s Demetrius Knox. Knox, an offensive lineman, signed as an undrafted free agent with Seattle.

The Seahawks also signed undrafted players in Baylor cornerback Derrek Thomas and Texas cornerback Davante Davis.

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