RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Poona Ford understood there was a reasonable likelihood that he wouldn't be drafted.
When you're a defensive lineman and you're not even 6 feet tall, it's difficult to buck perceptions that you're not cut out for the NFL. Even though he was the Big 12 Conference Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2017, Ford wasn't invited to the NFL Combine, only met with one team before the draft and has become used to people doubting his abilities.
"I knew I was going to get an opportunity and that's all I needed at the end of the day," Ford said.
That opportunity came when the Seattle Seahawks — the only team to have him in for a visit before the draft — offered him a spot as an undrafted free agent.
Ford is the only defensive lineman in the NFL - on an active roster, injured list, practice squad or otherwise - officially listed with a height of under six feet. He was measured at 5 feet, 11 5/8 inches at his Pro Day testing at the University of Texas in March.
Each team is allowed to bring up to 30 players to their headquarters for a personal interview. Seattle was Ford's only visit.
"That kind of said something to me too with the visit," Ford said. "They were the only team that wanted to meet with me so I just went with it."
Ford has done his best to show the Seahawks their decision to take a chance on him was worthwhile. He earned a spot on the team's active roster at the end of training camp and steadily made a case for more playing time. He played a season-high 50 percent of snaps in the loss to the San Francisco 49ers and responded with six tackles, including three for loss.
"He's been really aggressive," coach Pete Carroll said. "He's shown really good instincts to get a feel for taking advantage and making plays on the other side of the line of scrimmage. He's going to get some more playing time."
Against the 49ers, Ford stopped running back Jeff Wilson Jr. for a 1-yard loss in the second quarter defeating the block of center Weston Richburg, split a gap to drop running back Matt Breida for a 3-yard loss in the third quarter, then beat Richburg again in overtime to stop Breida for a 5-yard loss. He has also shown he can pursue laterally down the line of scrimmage, making a tackle of Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders in space in October.
"He's got a really good initial quickness and the ability to get off the ball," defensive line coach Clint Hurtt said. "Really good hands player and very, very strong and he has longer arms for a guy that is his height. So he has some unique traits to him."
After being inactive for five of the first 11 games of the season, Ford has been in the lineup for each of the last four weeks. He's recorded 12 of his 16 total tackles this season in the last four games.
"This year has been just really like learning everything," Ford said. "As far as studying film and as far as like practice habits and stuff like that. Just putting everything together and that's what I'm kind of doing now is just putting everything together that I learned throughout the season."
Ford still expects people to doubt whether he can continue to get things done. That doubt has continually fueled him to prove otherwise. He has a screenshot of a since-deleted tweet as the background for his Twitter page that says: "From what we're hearing Poona Ford is very unlikely to make the Seahawks roster."
He's still here and becoming a bigger part of Seattle's defense each week.
"A lot of people thought I wouldn't really do much in college. I've been productive there. And a lot of people have said I'm going to get cut and this and that. I use that to my advantage as much as possible," Ford said.
NOTES: LG J.R. Sweezy is doubtful to play against the Cardinals due a foot injury. Carroll said the recovery is generally 3-4 weeks but they believe Sweezy can play in the team's playoff opener next week. ... RG D.J. Fluker (hamstring), RB Rashaad Penny (knee), SS Bradley McDougald (knee), FS Tedric Thompson (ankle) and DE Dion Jordan (knee) are all questionable.