What if I told you that NFL gurus missed the boat when it comes to this quarterback. Undersized, unheralded, and stigmatized by the media’s belittling of Big Ten football, he was an afterthought in the 2012 NFL Draft. Overshadowed by a NFL-ready Stanford superstar and a flashy, dynamic QB from Baylor, this 5’11” signal caller showed a unique combination of readiness and dynamics that led his team into the playoffs in 2012, and has made them a favorite to get to the Super Bowl this season. His name is Russell Wilson.
Russell Wilson has always been undervalued. At just under six feet tall and a shade over two-hundred pounds, he’s not physically intimidating. Though deceptively quick and elusive, his athleticism doesn’t jump off the screen at you. The son of a lawyer who spent one year on the San Diego Chargers practice squad, he does not come from an impressive NFL pedigree. It’s no wonder GM’s eyes didn’t light up while he led the Badgers of Wisconsin in 2011. There was a far more discussed specimen at work in California, and a charismatic star in Waco, Texas that captured the media’s hearts. And as Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III vied for the top spot in the 2012 draft, Russell Wilson quietly took care of his business in Madison.
Russell Wilson is far from ordinary. Part African-American and Native American, Wilson’s journey would begin to take off at North Carolina State. After being drafted by the Baltimore Orioles, Wilson chose to go to college because as he puts it, “a college education is something you’ll always have.” At NC State he played both football and baseball and earned himself the ACC Rookie of the Year in 2008 in football. It was also there he would attempt 379 passes without an interception, a glaring reflection of efficiency that would he would carry with him to Wisconsin.
While many college students nowadays spend up to five years finishing their Bachelor’s Degree, Wilson finished his in three. Instead of coasting after completing his degree, Wilson began graduate courses during his 2010 season. And in trademark fashion, Russell Wilson led the Wolfpack to a 9-4 record in 2010 and a Champ Sports Bowl victory over West Virginia. And oh by the way, while Wilson played quarterback, and while he cruised through his degree, he would play collegiate baseball in the summers. Wilson was already showing he ready for the demands that come as an NFL quarterback.
In 2011, Wilson announced he would be joining the Colorado Rockies organization at Spring Training. His coach at the time Dan O’Brien recognized Wilson’s potential in both baseball and football, and expressed his confidence in Wilson to the NFL community. Despite O’Brien’s efforts, Russell Wilson would not be invited to the 2011 NFL Combine. Wilson, for the time being was no longer a football player.
Wilson’s time on a diamond was short, and by late summer of 2011, he had committed himself to Brett Bielema’s Badgers. He immediately won the starting position. Wilson would go on to set the FBS record for passing efficiency and lead his Badgers to a Big Ten title and the Rose Bowl. He was named the Big Ten Quarterback of the Year, a member of the First-Team All-Big Ten, and a third-team All-American.
Despite his collegiate success and awards, his name generated very little hype going into the 2012 Draft. While everyone’s attention was on Luck’s NFL-ready IQ and RGIII’s dynamic ability as a runner and a thrower, Wilson’s potential was based upon his size, not his ability. And he slipped, into the third round.
Into the third round, right where Pete Carroll wanted him. Carroll has worked hard to make Seattle’s defense one of the most feared in the NFL. Not surprisingly, the ‘Hawks spent their first two picks on defense. Russell Wilson falling to the third round was exactly what they had hoped. They had found an experienced, mature, and successful quarterback. Despite NFL gurus giving Seattle “C” draft grades the Seahawks had gotten what they wanted, and more importantly, what they needed.
Here we are, approaching the halfway mark of the 2013 season. The Seahawks are 6-1 and are in the driver’s seat in the NFC West. Once again the Seahawks defense continues to wreak havoc on opponents. But this year Russell Wilson is getting the respect he deserves. And the shade under six-feet tall, third round quarterback from a power running offense at a Big Ten school continues to lead his team to victory; and it shouldn’t surprise anyone, except maybe the gurus who overlooked him. I just wonder how bad it will taste when the undersized afterthought is the reason the Seattle Seahawks hoist the Lombardi Trophy this coming February.