Mark LeGree: from construction to NFL

RENTON, Wash. (AP) - All the work leading up to the NFL draft was over. Mark LeGree, despite playing at Appalachian State, knew he would get a shot at playing in the pros after being taken in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks.

There was just the pesky lockout delaying the start of his professional career and blocking any money from coming into his wallet.

"I had a little bit of money left over and I was waiting for the lockout to end but I was getting low on my funds," LeGree said. "I was like `I have to find a job.'"

So LeGree placed a phone call to Phil Washburn, co-owner of Capehart and Washburn, a general contracting firm in Boone, N.C. The previous summer, LeGree spent some of the time between his junior and senior seasons at Appalachian State working for the company, doing a variety of construction jobs.

But now he was bound for the NFL and the last person Washburn expected to hear from just a few weeks after the draft.

"He left me a message over the weekend, saying `you know about the lockout and I'm just laying around,'" Washburn recalled in a phone interview. "He was still doing his morning workouts every day, but I was happy to have him back."

LeGree's decision to spend some of the lockout doing manual labor speaks to the background of the 22-year-old free safety. He went to high school at Pacelli High School in Columbus, GA., with just 28 kids in his graduating class. He only landed at Appalachian State by making a video of his high school accomplishments and sending it to the Mountaineers' coaches.

So doing a little construction work in the summer, if it meant a few more dollars in his pocket, was an easy decision to make even with a relatively large payday awaiting once the lockout was lifted.

"I felt I needed to get off my butt. I didn't want to have someone just give me money. I felt like I'm just the type of person that won't sit around," LeGree said. "I don't mind working. I don't think I'm too good of a person not to work just because I got drafted. It keeps me humble."

His first summer working for Capehart and Washburn involved having to build and take down scaffolding and doing painting on some high-end homes in the hilly terrain of western North Carolina. Every time he would set foot on any of the scaffolding, Washburn would quickly remind him to be careful and watch his steps, not wanting to see the Mountaineers' star safety get hurt on a construction site.

When LeGree called this past spring, Washburn said most of the jobs involved retaining walls and rockery. While he was again reminded to be careful, LeGree didn't mind the heavy lifting. It supplemented the two-hour workouts he did every morning on the Appalachian State campus.

"I didn't mind it because I was still doing physical activity," LeGree said. "It definitely did help. I wanted to stay active."

And the modest $12 per hour that LeGree was paid for six or seven hours of work per day didn't hurt either.

"He never complained about that," Washburn said.

LeGree is one of 13 players on Seattle's current 90-man roster who played collegiately at the lower levels of college football _ either FCS, Division II or Division III. While it might seem these players _ especially rookies _ need to prove something extra once they're brought into camp, Seattle coach Pete Carroll doesn't believe that.

"They're all the same out here now. I don't care where they came from, not at all. I don't care how young they are, how old they are or where they came from," Carroll said. "They're out here battling. ... It's a good story but out here, they got to battle."

LeGree is one of two free safeties on the roster, playing behind starter Earl Thomas. Seattle was attracted to LeGree, a three-time Associated Press FCS first-team all-American, by his ability to make plays on the ball in college. LeGree was the active NCAA leader in interceptions with 22 when his college career wrapped up last fall.

"He didn't expect to be a star player. He's just modest," Washburn said. "He just wants to go do his job and do the best he possibly can. We were a little star struck to have him around."