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Jalston Fowler, the low-key other piece to the Seahawks rushing plans

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Tennessee Titans v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

It’s anyone’s guess as to the future of the NFL fullback. Will the position make a comeback? Will it disappear entirely like the bubal hartebeest? (The bubal hartebeest was a North African antelope that was officially killed out by hunting sometime in the 50s.) Will this article have more animal references?

Possibly.

One team that has no immediate plan to eliminate the fullback is the Seattle Seahawks. During Pete Carroll’s most successful seasons with the team, fullback Michael Robinson was a key component to the offense, setting blocks and opening lanes for a bubal hartebeest of our own: Marshawn Lynch. Robinson was in Seattle from 2010-2013, which almost perfectly lines up with an Alabama hartebeest of a different sort.

Jalston Fowler.

Fowler was listed as the number two fullback prospect in the nation by Scout.com in 2009, and he chose to play for hometown Alabama. As a junior in 2008, Fowler rushed for 25 touchdowns and helped his school win the state 5A championship. He could also make catches like this one:

If looking for 10 more minutes of Fowler’s high school highlights, here you go:

If not looking for that, here’s 10 minutes of cute animals:

Fowler enrolled at Alabama in early 2010, with the Crimson Tide coming off of a perfect 14-0 season. His first season included blocking for Mark Ingram, Trent Richardson, and Eddie Lacy, while Julio Jones was the team’s top target. Despite this, Alabama finished 10-3 after dropping games to South Carolina, LSU, and Auburn.

Fowler carried it 14 times for 111 yards and a touchdown.

By the next season, of course Alabama was back on top, going 12-1 and winning the national championship. Fowler carried it 56 times for 385 yards and four touchdowns, while also blocking for Richardson on his way to 21 touchdowns and a third place finish in the Heisman race.

In 2012, the Crimson Tide went 13-1 and again won the national championship, but Fowler would hardly be a part of the season. He was injured in September and missed the rest of the year with a torn ACL. Who knows what would have been ... he was part of the rotation but his injury gave an opportunity to T.J. Yeldon, who rushed for 1,108 yards and 12 touchdowns as the backup to Lacy.

“Jalston’s been a great player in the program -- a really good special teams guy,” Saban said at his weekly press conference Monday. “A great backup player for us. A really good attitude guy. Lots of character. Really good competitor.

The injury nearly caused Fowler to quit football, but his son inspired him to keep going.

“I mean, I was pretty close,” Fowler said this week.

But his son Jalston Jr. was on the way “so I had to stick it out,” he said. And this then-girlfriend was a strong influence in his life.

”She had to just keep me going, keep me positive through the whole thing,” Fowler said. “Family and friends too. Now that I look back on it, I’m happy that I didn’t.”

Fowler did return in 2013 and was considered a valuable member of the team for the following two seasons.

“It would be devastating,” [teammate Jonathan Allen] said. “He’s a very important part even though he doesn’t get the credit for it a lot of the time. He’s usually the guy making the last key block to spring the running backs free. So he’s a very important piece of our offense.”

Those blocks led to 1,235 yards and 14 touchdowns for Yeldon in 2013 and a combined 22 touchdowns by Yeldon and Derrick Henry in 2014. He’s also an adept pass catcher, receiving 18 passes and seven touchdowns over his final two seasons. At the 2015 NFL Combine, Fowler measured in at 5’11, 254 lbs, ran a 4.86 and had a 33.5” vertical. He was considered the top fullback in the draft and was selected quite early, going in the fourth round to the Tennessee Titans.

The Titans remained a terrible rushing team during Fowler’s rookie season, but fired Ken Whisenhunt and hired Mike Mularkey and “exotic smash mouth” football right away. It wasn’t long before Fowler was blocking for Henry once again too and suddenly Tennessee ranked third in rushing yards, fourth in yards per carry in 2016.

However, by last season, Fowler and the fullback position in general, was slowly phased out of the Titans’ plans. They waived Fowler in December, with Mularkey mentioning a lack of special teams contributions as a reason why. The Seahawks quickly picked him and in January, signed him to a futures deal.

At this point, Fowler is in competition with Tre Madden to be Seattle’s fullback in 2018. Madden has the advantage of experience under Carroll, but Fowler could be the more talented player, and a guy who was only available because of the dying interest and need in the fullback position by many teams. That’s nothing against Madden, who may indeed turn out to be the better option, but Fowler’s resume is about as impressive as it can get for the position these days. He played for the best coach in college football history, blocked for some of the most successful running backs in college football history, and even helped Tennessee go from 25th in rushing to third.

The Seahawks main offensive goal this year appears to be a return to form in rushing that they once had with the Beast. They’ve changed the offensive coordinator, offensive line coach, drafted a running back in the first round, signed a run-blocking starting right guard, added two tight ends only known for their blocking prowess, and signed Brandon Marshall, a receiver known for his blocking as well. One thing that never gets mentioned though is the addition of Fowler, and that’s probably because people assumed he was extinct.

But he may be the last living hartebeest.