People have always said it, that he’s too short to play quarterback.
In high school. In college. Russell Wilson, 5 foot 11, was a star all the way along.
People are soon going to stop saying it, if the rookie quarterback for the surging Seattle Seahawks keeps playing as well as he has.
It is a year of rookie quarterbacks, five starters in the NFL, with Andrew Luck (Indianapolis Colts) and Robert Griffin III (Washington Redskins) getting the most attention.
Luck has made the biggest debut, taking the Colts, who were last place at 2-14 in 2011, to a 9-4 record and a claim on a wild-card spot, the fifth seed in the AFC. Wilson is far-less known but is doing the same in the NFC. He has helped lead the Seahawks to 8-5 and the fifth seed.
Wilson wasn’t even supposed to have the starting job.
He had been drafted in April in the third round, a month after the Seahawks signed former Green Bay Packers backup Matt Flynn to a three-year deal worth a maximum of $26-million (U.S.).
In training camp, Wilson wrested the starting job away from Flynn, to the aghast of some Seahawks pundits. It was an imperfect start to the 2012 regular season, but in the last five games, Wilson is 4-1.
And while he’s producing in games, it is practices that underpin his rise. Head coach Pete Carroll pits his starters against each other in high-tempo replications of toughest and most-important game situations. It helps that Seattle has one of the best defences in the NFL.
“They make every single play as hard as possible, in the red zone, and on third down,” Carroll said, “and Russell has improved enormously during the course of the season in both those areas.”
Drafted in the 41st round by the Baltimore Orioles after high school in 2007, Wilson almost had a career in baseball and only stopped playing the sport competitively last year.
He played both football and baseball at North Carolina State University (2008-10) and was drafted again, this time in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies in 2010.
He played two summers in Class-A as a second baseman before committing himself to football and was grabbed by the Seahawks after his senior season at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.
In Seattle, Wilson has benefited greatly from the tutelage of Carroll. In his talks with reporters – he is not expansive or exciting – you can hear Carroll’s voice, imbued on Wilson. “One game at a time” or variations are a staple, but meant sincerely.
“We’re all treating it as a championship game,” Wilson said Thursday, referring to the game in Toronto against the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. The Seahawks are 2-5 on the road. “Championship teams have to be able to win on the road.”
Carroll, during a Wednesday press conference, called Wilson “a very, very rare kid.”
Later, in an interview, the coach spoke of winning a Super Bowl, and the conviction the players and coaches have that they can. Carroll credited the arrival Russell for helping stoke that potential.
“Russell’s been a big part of that,” Carroll said.
“Russell Wilson. He’s the kind of leader, and he’s the kind of performer, that you need to go along with everything else we’re doing. I’m excited to see what we’re going to do right now.”