MADISON, Wis. A social-media marketing ploy for Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilsons Heisman Trophy candidacy has gained substantial steam in less than two weeks since its creation.
The Badgers sensational senior recently became the bearer of a clever Twitter handle, @RussellManiaXVI, thanks to the efforts of Wisconsin head football coach Bret Bielema and the schools media relations department. The Twitter name went live at 12:25 a.m. on Oct. 1 and gained more than 1,000 followers in the first 24 hours. It had 3,477 followers as of 2 p.m. Tuesday.
Bielema said he met with Brian Lucas, the Badgers director of athletic communications, to determine the best course of action for promoting Wilson nationally.
I guess when we began to see Russell start to play well in front of our eyes and began to hear the hype, I had a meeting with Brian and said, What do we have to do to move forward? said Bielema, who has more than 11,200 Twitter followers on his own personal account. The kid has earned an honest and legitimate shot of being in the Heisman talk. What can be done to help it?
(Brian) had already set the wheels in motion. I talked to Coach (Barry) Alvarez about when Ron Dayne was here. I think the world has changed a lot in the last 10 years.
Dayne won the Heisman Trophy at Wisconsin in 1999 when Alvarez, now Wisconsins athletics director, was his coach. Dayne became the second Wisconsin player to win the Heisman, joining fullback Alan Ameche, who won in 1954.
The description on Wilsons Twitter page reads: The official Twitter feed of Russell Wilsons Heisman Trophy campaign, and it also provides a link to Wilsons bio on the University of Wisconsin athletics website. Tweets generally consist of links to stories about Wilson or statistics on his season.
The RussellMania name appears to be a play off of the World Wrestling Entertainments annual WrestleMania pay-per-view event. For those curious, WrestleManiaXVI took place on April 2, 2000 in Anaheim, Calif.
The XVI in Wilsons Twitter name, of course, represents his jersey No. 16.
In addition to a Twitter account, the athletic department also posted a RussellManiaXVI Facebook fan page. As of Tuesday at 2 p.m., it had received 2,073 likes from Facebook users.
Wilson does not have a Twitter account himself, but he expressed gratitude for the athletic departments efforts in promoting his Heisman candidacy.
Its a blessing to be in that type of company with some other players that are being mentioned for the Heisman Trophy, Wilson said. Its definitely an honor. ... Im trying to be the best quarterback in college football. In terms of my mindset, I dont focus on that kind of stuff. Im not a big social media type of person or anything like that. Its the type of thing where my focus is on the football field.
The same day that Wilsons Twitter account went live, he led Wisconsin to a stirring 48-17 triumph against then-No. 8 Nebraska at Camp Randall Stadium on national television. In that game, Wilson completed 14-of-20 pass attempts for 255 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown.
Wilson has risen to stardom in his first season with the Badgers after transferring from North Carolina State, completing 83 of 111 passes overall with 13 touchdowns and just one interception. Most importantly, he has fourth-ranked Wisconsin undefeated (5-0) and now in the national championship conversation.
Despite the recent social media hype, Bielema recognizes the best way for Wilson to showcase himself to a national audience is to perform at the same high level hes managed in the teams first five games.
All the major awards are won on the field, Bielema said. I dont think you can just put a poster up in the middle of New York City. I think its about what you do on the field.
I believe that Russell buys into it. I think our kids enjoy being around that kind of conversation. You look at last year with Cam (Newton). Nobody had even heard of him. He ends up winning the Heisman because of what he did on the field. Thats when it really became clear to me that youve just got to really play well and have your team play well, and youve got a chance.