KIRKLAND, Wash. (AP) -The only bad move Seattle Seahawks cornerback Marcus Trufant has made recently was charging at burly teammate T.J. Duckett in practice.
The powerful Duckett outweighs Trufant by more than 50 pounds. He dropped his shoulders after a catch and hit the cornerback, causing Trufant's contact lens to be popped out of his left eye, through his facemask and onto the practice field.
Coach Mike Holmgren jokingly held up his hand from afar and asked, ``How many fingers am I holding up?''
``Two,'' Trufant correctly replied.
``Some times they get the best of you,'' Trufant said. ``But you've got to come back.''
Story of his suddenly flourishing career.
A year ago, Trufant was drifting, not sure where his next paycheck might be coming from while seemingly destined to become an underperforming free agent.
Seattle's former first-round draft choice is skilled, but without the accomplishments to match.
``Done a little bit since then,'' he said.
One season later, Trufant is a Pro Bowl cornerback with a $50 million contract from his hometown team, signed in March three days before he married Jessica Rankin.
About the only one who doesn't now view him as an elite, shutdown corner is Karmyn. She's 2 1/2-years old and just calls him, ``Daddy.''
Talk about perfect timing.
``Married life is wonderful,'' Trufant said with a huge smile during the most comfortable training camp of his career.
The native of Tacoma, about 30 minutes down the freeway, was a captain in three sports at that city's Wilson High School. He then starred at Washington State before Seattle made him the 11th overall pick in 2003.
In 2007, he finally shed his fears of giving up huge plays and had a career-high seven interceptions.
When the season ended without a new contract, Trufant prepared for free agency. Then Seahawks gave him $20 million in guarantees. A $3 million roster bonus due in 2010 effectively means Trufant is due $28 million over the first three years of the contract, making him one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league.
``Man, just a lot of good things going on,'' Trufant said.
Trufant is one of the most important of the 11 starters returning on defense for the four-time defending NFC West champions.
``You need guys to shut people down out there. And that's what he does,'' Seahawks defensive coordinator John Marshall said. ``And the best thing is, he'd be there first to say he's got room for improvement.''
Plus, people simply like Trufant.
What's not to like about a local, family-first 27-year-old who brings his parents to announce his new contract? Who gives to charities across Western Washington? Whose main endorsement deal extols the benefits to getting daily servings of milk in advertisements for the Dairy Farmers of Washington?
``It couldn't happen to a nicer guy,'' said Seahawks defensive backs coach Jim Mora, who is scheduled to be Trufant's head coach beginning in 2009. ``He's just a quality, quality kid. Classy.
``We all have an ego, but he keeps his ego in check. He cares about the team. He's a hard worker. He's the first one in line for all of our drills. He tries to do it exactly like you ask him to do it. He's humble. He's hardworking. He's just ... just everything you would want.''
When Mora arrived before last season following his firing as coach of the Atlanta Falcons, he gave Trufant a clear message:
``I've watched you,'' Mora said. ``And it's time to go make plays on the ball.''
Trufant then dutifully had as many interceptions in one season as he had in his previous three. Mora thinks when Seattle signed veterans Deon Grant and Brian Russell before last season, Trufant finally had safeties he could trust to cover behind him while he aggressively played the ball.
``He went out in his contract year and had an excellent year,'' said Mora, who grew up around Seattle while his father coached at the University of Washington. ``And we're fortunate to sign him to a long-term deal here, which hopefully means he ends his career here. That is sort of the right thing, you know? He's a local kid. Played at Wazzu. To play your whole career in the state of Washington is pretty unique.''
If Trufant indeed finishes his entire career with Seattle, he'd be the second Seahawks perennial starter to play his entire career in the NFL, college and high school in Washington. The first was Michael Jackson, who started 78 games at linebacker from 1979-86.
Yet Trufant doesn't want to be called unique.'' Or elite - ``I feel like I'm getting there,'' he said.
Even ``established,'' which he finally is, makes him squirm.
``I feel established, but yet at the same time I'm working hard. I've got to get better,'' he said.
``I am never one to stay in the same spot.''

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