Call from head coach Pete Carroll sealed Seahawks decision for Canadian OL Pier-Olivier Lestage

Photo courtesy: Seattle Seahawks, James Hajjar and University of Montreal

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll closed the deal with Canadian offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage prior to the end of the 2021 NFL Draft.

Carroll called the 23-year-old during the pre-draft process to ensure the University of Montreal product knew the interest from his team was legitimate and not just scouts doing meaningless background work. That led to Lestage signing an undrafted free agent contract with the Seahawks.

“It’s the team that showed the most interest. Pete Carroll called me, so definitely I was feeling a good vibe with them,” Lestage said.

“The team is definitely serious, when a head coach picks up the phone and calls a player, it’s serious. You don’t do that with any player,” Lestage’s Montreal-based agent Sasha Ghavami said.

The Seahawks have been working to improve an offensive line that allowed franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to be sacked 47 times in 2020, the third most of any QB in the NFL. Only Deshaun Watson (49) and Carson Wentz (50) hit the turf more than Wilson last season. The Super Bowl XLVII champion stated publicly that he wanted the guard and centre positions upgraded.

Enter Lestage to compete at both spots.

Lestage played in the Tropical Bowl in Orlando, Fla. in front of NFL scouts, including the Seahawks. That’s where he displayed his ability to snap the football with both hands while playing centre at just over six-foot-three and 305 pounds. Despite the 2020 U Sports season being cancelled, the Saint-Eustache, Que. native worked to improve at guard and centre.

Former Bengals offensive line coach Paul Alexander helped develop Lestage in Cincinnati. Alexander spent over 20 years in the NFL and knows exactly what coaches covet up front. That’s part of the reason over 10 teams contacted Lestage leading into the draft with multiple offers coming quickly at its conclusion.

“I felt like I had a good opportunity to go into Seattle and compete right away. That’s why I chose Seattle at the end. I’m really confident I’m able to stay on the Seattle Seahawks and have a great career in the NFL,” Lestage said.

“I work really hard. I have a really good work ethic, I’ve been wanting this my whole life since I was 10 years old. Now that I can actually smell it, and actually touch it, that’s going to make me work even harder. Definitely I’ll have what it takes to stay there.”

There were offers from competing NFL teams which included more guaranteed money, but Lestage turned down higher amounts of cash elsewhere to ink a pact with the Seahawks. Signing bonus dollars can often indicate the level of interest from a franchise, but it’s not always the key factor in the decision-making process.

“There were a lot of great options. We had multiple offers, and it ultimately came down to the best fit, the best opportunity that we felt. It’s a question of fit and Seattle’s been talking to P.O. for a long time. There was a lot of interest throughout the building and opportunities there,” Ghavami said.

“There was a lot of interest in him — many teams. He had the choice to decide where he wanted to go. Sasha did a good job of analyzing the whole situation. Seattle has shown interest, it’s been a few weeks we’ve been talking about Seattle — they really like him, they believe in him,” University of Montreal head coach Marco Iadeluca said.

Three meetings with Mike Solari, who has been in the NFL for 32 years and currently serves as Seattle’s offensive line coach, made Lestage feel comfortable with the Seahawks. Solari is the main man responsible for developing and preparing protectors for Wilson and helping keep him upright more often in the future.

“I’ll go there in the building and show them what I can do, what kind of football player I am, what kind of person I am, what kind of worker I am — I’m going to go there and try to make a name for myself,” Lestage said.

Seattle will have him in the building for a physical on May 12 prior to a three-day post-draft rookie mini-camp. It’s the first chance for Lestage to impress at the Seahawks facility as he works to earn a roster spot.

Justin Dunk is a football insider, sports reporter and anchor.