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STRONG INKS DEAL WITH SEATTLE

Charles Odum

STRONG INKS DEAL WITH SEATTLE

Columbus native Mack Strong expects to start after signing new contract with Seattle

Columbus native Mack Strong, who first signed with the Seattle Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 1993, signed a three-year, $1.9 million contract with the team Thursday.

Strong says he has been told by Coach Dennis Erickson he will open the 1996 season as the starting fullback for the Seahawks, who are trying to move to Los Angeles. Strong started the last two games of the 1995 season.

`I am happy, definitely happy,'' said Strong in a telephone interview from his home in Bellevue, Wash.

`I feel like coming into the situation, not being drafted, I'm definitely ahead of the game.''

Strong is represented by the Atlanta-based International Sports Advisers that also lists fellow University of Georgia alumnus Eric Zeier as a client. Strong received an undisclosed signing bonus when he signed the three-year deal.

`I think it's a changed role for Mack with the Seahawks,'' said Brooks Henderson of International Sports Advisers.

`He has been penciled in as a starter. Every indication he's been given is he will start, and this contract kind of reflects that.''

At Georgia, Strong was a do-it-all running back. With the Seahawks, who feature four-time 1,000-yard rusher Chris Warren at running back, Strong is more of a pure blocker from his fullback position. The 6-foot Strong says he is up to 230 pounds, 20 pounds heavier than his days at Georgia and, he says, `a long way from my days at Brookstone.''

In 1995, Strong had only eight carries for 23 yards and one touchdown. He caught 12 passes for 117 yards and three touchdowns. As a rookie in 1994, Strong had 27 carries for 114 yards (and two touchdowns.

Last season, Strong played behind Steve Smith at fullback and made more of an impact by leading the Seahawks' special teams with 19 tackles. When Smith suffered a back injury, Strong moved up to start the last two games.

`Hopefully I'll get a lot more of an opportunity this year,'' Strong said.

`I'm looking to have a big year in '96. I don't see anything holding me back. . . . I think (the contract) is definitely a commitment on their part. They felt like I had come a long way. I think they consider me an important part of this team.'

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