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Former UW QB Stanback back home

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RENTON, Wash. (AP)

Isaiah Stanback's long, braided hair is streaming out of his helmet. It's bouncing off the back of his shoulders as he races across the Seahawks' practice field.

That's not all that's flowing easily for the former University of Washington quarterback right now.

Stanback is back home, after 16 games over three seasons as a wide receiver and kick returner for Dallas and New England.

The Patriots released him last month. That left him momentarily adrift - until the Seahawks brought him back to his native city.

``It feels good. It feels really good being home,'' the 25-year-old said after a practice in Seattle's latest organized team activity. ``To be here, it's still kind of surreal.''

His smile was huge and as engaging as it's always been.

No wonder.

He's a few miles south of where he starred at Seattle's Garfield High School - and from where new Seahawks coach Pete Carroll tried recruiting him to Southern California.

Carroll said Stanback is a unique player who could be a Seattle surprise.

``Without question. Isaiah is a kid that we recruited hard, had in our camps,'' Carroll said, referring to his former Trojans. ``Then we played against him for a number of years. I've had great respect for his ability, his all-around athleticism.''

Carroll, who arrived in Seattle in January, made this sound like more than just a token homecoming for Stanback, or a feel-good story that may fade once the season starts this fall.

He has already challenged three-time Pro Bowl quarterback Matt Hasselbeck by trading with San Diego for strong-armed Charlie Whitehurst to be his heir, knowing Hasselbeck's contract ends after this season. He has brought in J.P. Losman, the former top pick and starter for the Buffalo Bills, to challenge Whitehurst for the No. 2 job.

Stanback adds another dimension. Carroll said Stanback could be under center when Seattle needs a runner to be its quarterback.

Stanback hasn't taken a snap in a game since he badly injured his foot in October 2006, his senior season at Washington.

The Cowboys considered it, even practiced it, but more injuries derailed Stanback in Dallas.

``He's got terrific speed and explosion. He could offer us some help to do some things if we needed it at the quarterback spot, to salvage a couple of situations, possibly,'' Carroll said.

It's not that Stanback can't throw. When he left he was second all-time at Washington for yards per completion (14.38) despite having three different coaches in five years.

He was third in career rushing yards by a Huskies quarterback (794). He had 4.42 speed in the 40-yard dash, the gift that once made him a finalist in the Pac-10 championships in the 100 meters, one place out of qualifying for the NCAA finals.

Then in October 2006, Stanback crumpled to the Husky Stadium turf during a game against Oregon State. He sustained a major form of a peculiar Lisfranc foot injury. The bone, joint and ligament displacement - and often fracture in the midfoot - has ruined football careers.

Stanback needed surgery and screws to repair the injury. He had to plant on three screws in his right foot to throw passes at the NFL combine before the 2007 draft. He felt pain on every one.

Yet the Cowboys saw enough potential in Stanback's athleticism to take him in the fourth round. He played in 10 games over two seasons for Dallas, catching two passes and returning 13 kickoffs.

The Patriots signed him to their practice squad last September, then put him on the active roster in November. He caught three passes and returned one kickoff in six games for New England.

When the Patriots cut him last month, his career seemed summarized by wistful questions of what could have been had he not gotten hurt.

Yet he's back. He's gliding across the field catching passes from Losman.

It's a long way from starting.

But it's an even longer way from being idle and wondering, ``What if?''

``I haven't seen him play much in the last couple years, but I'm anxious just to fit him in and see what he offers us,'' Carroll said. ``He's a unique player, yes.''

Tagged: Seahawks, Isaiah Stanback

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