Is Russell Wilson for Real?

By John Martin

The Seahawks are 4-0 after beating the NFC Champion 49ers and AFC South Champion Texans, and football fans are wondering how far quarterback Russell Wilson can go. Can he take the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, as the Sporting News predicts? Or is he destined to fall short, like predecessors Jim Zorn and Matt Hasselbeck. No one knows yet, but a look back at Wilson's career shows that those who bet against him usually lose.

A Born Athlete

Russell Carrington Wilson was born November 29, 1988 in Cincinnati, Ohio to an athletic family. His grandfather played football and basketball at Kentucky State. His father played football and baseball at Dartmouth and practiced as a wide receiver with the San Diego Chargers during the Air Coryell era. His brother played college football and baseball, while his sister plays high school basketball.

Wilson himself played all three sports in high school while growing up in Richmond, Va. His senior year quarterback performance won him all-state, all-conference and conference player of the year honors, and got him featured in Sports Illustrated. Wilson accepted a scholarship from North Carolina State University, where Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato was willing to let him play both football and baseball.

Is Russell Wilson for Real?
Photo by BlueberryFiles via Flickr

From Release to Rose Bowl

Amato got fired, and new coach Tom O'Brien wanted Wilson committed to football. But Wilson had been drafted by the Colorado Rockies, and wasn't willing to give up baseball. So, despite holding third place on North Carolina's all-time passing yardage list, he lost his scholarship in spring 2011.

Is Russell Wilson for Real?
Photo by Patriarca12 via Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina's loss was Wisconsin's gain. Transferring to the land of Badgers, Cheeseheads and Wilson led Wisconsin to a Big Ten Championship and a Rose Bowl loss, while in the process rivaling Drew Brees' touchdown record. Wilson informed the Rockies he would be entering the NFL.

Beating out Aaron Rodgers' Backup

At the NFL Scouting Combine, Wilson's 4.55 40-yard dash came in second only to Heisman winner Robert Griffin III's 4.41. Some opined if he were taller, the 5"11 Wilson would have drafted number one. Instead, he went to Seattle in the third round, signing four years for $2.99 million.

Seattle did not particularly need a starting quarterback, having just signed Aaron Rodgers' former backup Matt Flynn to a three-year $19.5 million contract, after Flynn set a Packers record of 480 yards and six touchdowns in a late-season game. Despite this, Wilson impressed the Seahawks enough to trade Flynn to the Raiders.

Outscoring Robert Griffin III and Colin Kaepernick

It proved to be a good decision. Wilson led the Seahawks to a playoff wild card victory over an injured Griffin's Redskins before barely losing to the Falcons on a last-minute field goal. The Falcons went on to lose to the 49ers, who continued to the Super Bowl.

Is Russell Wilson for Real?
Photo by Larry Maurer via Wickimedia Commons

This year, Wilson has already decisively won a showdown against 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. He is one step away from taking it to the next level.

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