NFL QB Wilson embraces Raleigh roots at passing camp
JUN 25, 2013 5:04p ET
Now, he's one of 32 starting quarterbacks in the NFL and, as a rookie, came within a play or two of taking the Seattle Seahawks to the NFC title game last season.
Wilson's still 5-11. He’s still 205 pounds (or so). And he continues to prove any and everyone wrong who doubts him. But he doesn't do it with a chip on his shoulder — Wilson has just always worked through such personal adversity without yapping about it.
And that part of Wilson, the part that's fluent in football cliches, that makes you feel like he's hiding something, like he's trying too hard to be careful. When he says things like, "It’s an awesome experience just to be able to play the game of football . . . and to be the starting quarterback of the Seahawks is a tremendous honor," a certain cynical part of most sports fans wonders if this guy can possibly be serious when he says something like that.
But it's part of what makes Wilson who he is, that ability to focus on the here and now. He remembers the doubters, but he doesn’t concentrate on the draft analysts who said he was too short to start in the NFL, or even the analysts who rated him a two-star high school recruit. That's not who he is doing this for. He's doing it for himself, his teammates and to satisfy an inner drive to succeed. And now it has paid off. He's a starting quarterback in the NFL. But he’s the same Russell Wilson as he always was.
"I try not to change at all. I just try to continue to believe in myself and just take it one day at a time and just enjoy it for what it is," Wilson said on Tuesday at NC State’s practice fields, where he is holding the Russell Wilson Passing Academy. "I’m blessed enough to be able to play the game of football and be a starting quarterback. I’m one of 32. Think about that. I’m one of 32 in the world. So you just cherish that and take it one day at a time."
It must be difficult — or impossible — for Wilson to look back on everything he has been through in his life and not be thankful. Through all the adversity he's encountered, including his father's death in 2010, Wilson wants the kids to heed the following message: They can overcome through hard times too.
"Growing up, I've had some really good situations in my life, some decent ones and some not-so-good ones. I’ve lost my dad and I’ve gone through a lot," Wilson said. "That’s why American Family (Insurance) and I partnered up to express how important it is to dream big, just to have something other than football.
"I want to be a CEO of a business one day, so I share those with those kids. . . . I want to own my own company and do my own things but also, I want to be the best quarterback that ever played the game. I have a long ways to go to get there, but you take it one day at a time, you stay in the moment and you just enjoy it for what it is."
It’s no coincidence that he’s holding the Wilson Passing Academy at five of the most important places in his life, in order: Richmond, Va. (his hometown), Raleigh (NC State’s campus, where he graduated and attended for four years), Madison, Wisc. (his final year of college eligibility at Wisconsin), then Spokane, Wash., and Seattle.
The camps will be two days each in the five locations, and his Raleigh stop was No. 2.
Wilson went through a lot here: He was a two-sport athlete at NC State, and ultimately it was his love of baseball that caused him to leave the Wolfpack with a year of eligibility. His former head coach, Tom O’Brien. wanted him with the team in the spring, but Wilson wanted to report for spring training with the Colorado Rockies.
The baseball part didn't work out, and he wanted to keep playing football, so he ended up in Madison. With the Badgers, he led Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl and set a single-season record for pass efficiency (73 percent) at the FBS level.
He never worried that it would be awkward to be back in Raleigh. He's continued to embrace NC State, declaring his school on Sunday Night Football as "a whole pack of badgers" so that he could express his love and affection for both Wisconsin and NC State. And the fans in Raleigh have continued to embrace Wilson, too.
"I knew it was going to be good for me. The coach here, (first-year head coach Dave Doeren), he’s an awesome coach," Wilson said. "I met him actually when I was playing at Wisconsin. We played them when we played Northern Illinois at Soldier Field. But just to be around him, he’s a great family man, it seems like. He’s young, he’s got a young staff and they’re doing really well in recruiting, supposedly. So it's good to be back here."
+ SHOW COMMENTS +