Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For Seahawks’ Russell Wilson, A Richmond Native, Success Always The Goal
ASHBURN – With the possibilities overwhelming him last spring and some semblance of certainty needed in his football future, Russell Wilson attempted to peer into the future and stare at his destiny.
On a whim, Wilson wrote out the names of each NFL team and put them all in a hat. After giving it a few shakes and turning away, he played the role of Roger Goodell, announcing that with the next pick, he would be selected by…the Seattle Seahawks.
“I’m not sure if God or my Dad or somebody had something to do with that [coming true],” Wilson revealed to Seattle-area reporters on Thursday. “But just to be here is a great opportunity. I’m trying to take advantage of every opportunity I get. You’ve got to cherish these moments.”
Wilson, a Richmond native, certainly has. In a season in which he wasn’t expected to start – heck, in a sport in which he wasn’t projected to succeed – the Seahawks quarterback has reached unprecedented success.
He threw 26 touchdown passes during his rookie year, tying Peyton Manning for the most thrown by a rookie in NFL history. He went undefeated at home, becoming the first rookie quarterback to start and win each of his team’s home games since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970.
And this weekend, when the Seahawks travel across the country to face the Washington Redskins in an NFC wild card playoff game, he’ll try to lead Seattle to its first road playoff victory since 1983.
“I can’t even come up with enough descriptive words to define what this kid is all about,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said Wednesday. “He’s just off the charts.”
A three-year starter at Collegiate both at quarterback and cornerback, Wilson led the Cougars to VISAA Division I state titles each season and threw for over 110 touchdowns, said Mark Palyo, then the offensive coordinator but, since 2008, Collegiate’s head coach.
Winning wasn’t the most important thing to Wilson, though. He also played baseball and basketball at Collegiate, and was eventually chosen as the recipient of the Jacobs Senior Sportsmanship Award upon graduation in 2007.
“This is a young man that if I had my own business, I would want him representing me in my business because he always has had that level of character,” Palyo said. “That, to me, is just something that’s very important.”
Wishing to play both baseball and football in college, Wilson settled upon N.C. State, where he redshirted his first year and took over as the starting quarterback midway through his freshman season, earning first-team all-ACC honors. The Wolfpack went 5-7 and 9-4 during his next two full seasons, and because he graduated in three years, he then transferred to Wisconsin for his senior season.
There, Wilson led the Badgers to the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl, where they lost to Oregon, 45-38. He set a school record with 33 touchdown passes, and his 191.8 passing efficiency rating was the highest ever recorded in the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“The guy had a tireless work ethic, and I know that sounds cliché, but you couldn’t wear him out,” said Kirk Cousins, the Redskins and former Michigan State quarterback who faced Wilson in the Big Ten Championship and trained with him leading up to the draft. “Whatever they threw at him he just kept doing, and it was good for me to be around him. Just a tremendous talent and a tremendous person and tremendous work ethic.”
The Seahawks expected Matt Flynn, who they signed to a three-year, $24 million contract before the season, would start at quarterback. But Wilson, for his energy and exuberance, was tough to keep off the field, and Carroll named him the starter in a surprising move before the regular season began.
He has thrown for 3,118 yards this season and run for 489 yards and four touchdowns, in the process discarding any pre-draft discussion that his height, at 5-foot-11, would be a factor.
His 100.0 quarterback rating is second only to the Redskins’ Robert Griffin III for the highest all-time amongst rookies, and his 64.1 completion percentage, while throwing for 3,118 yards with 10 interceptions, is behind only Griffin and Pittsburgh’s Ben Roethlisberger for the highest amongst first-year players.
That may be hard to believe, but for Wilson, it isn’t.
“I always believe in myself and I have full confidence in myself and my abilities,” he said by phone earlier in the week. “I’ve been blessed to be able to play the game of football and be able to throw it and all that kind of stuff. I think the biggest thing is my height doesn’t define my skill set. I believe that my separation is in the preparation, and that really helps me play on Sundays.”