Baylor basketball champion Mark Vital Jr. signs with Seahawks

Mark Vital Jr. won an NCAA basketball championship with Baylor in April.

Now he's ready to go pro. In the NFL.

The Seattle Seahawks announced on Thursday that they've signed Vital to their practice squad. He'll play tight end as he looks to follow the path blazed by future Hall of Famer Antonio Gates, who made eight Pro Bowls with the San Diego (now Los Angeles) Chargers after transitioning to the position from basketball.

Vital, a 6-5, 250-pound power forward, was a standout in four seasons at Baylor. He was named to the Big 12 All-Defensive Team three times and earned all-conference honors as a junior. He averaged 5.6 points, 6.7 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 0.9 rebounds as a senior while starting 30 games and helping the Bears secure their first NCAA title.

He played for the Portland Trail Blazers Summer League team after going undrafted, but his defense-heavy game didn't translate to an NBA roster spot. He recently announced his intent to transition to the NFL on social media. 

Thank you Basketball you gave me everything and created opportunities for me. Time for a new chapter #NFL🙏🏾

— Mark Vital Jr. (@MarkVitalJr) August 30, 2021

He also posted video of the work he's put in. 

The Sacrifice 🌍

— Mark Vital Jr. (@MarkVitalJr) August 31, 2021

Vital not short on confidence

Vital didn't play football at Baylor. He told Louisiana's KPLC recently he hasn't played football since middle school. But he's confident in his NFL chances. 

“I feel like I can be a Hall of Famer," Vital told KPLC. "I’m already getting compared to Antonio Gates from different scouts and teams when hearing them talk about me. 

"I’m already getting compared to a Hall of Famer, and that’s motivation to me to get to that level. I can see the similarities. He and I are both explosive, fast and big. We are built the same.”

Vital reportedly worked out with Russell Wilson this summer

Vital told KPLC he worked out for multiple NFL teams, including the Dallas Cowboys. So how did he land with the Seahawks? Some summer work with Russell Wilson probably helped. 

Jake Heaps of 710 ESPN Seattle radio reports that Vital worked out with Wilson in San Diego this offseason. He apparently impressed the seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback. Will he get a chance to catch passes from Wilson in NFL games this season? 

The Seahawks list Gerald Everett, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson on the 53-man roster announced this week. But Parkinson suffered a broken foot in training camp. The Seahawks have held off on placing him on injured reserve, and his status for the regular season isn't settled. 

If he does miss time, the Seahawks could promote another tight end in his absence. In a famously next-man-up league, would that be Vital's shot? It's a long one, but steep odds haven't stopped Vital from coming this far. 

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