Baseball is the furthest thing from Russell Wilson's mind right now. "It's not that Wilson has forgotten his baseball roots, but has the bit of business of trying to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Seattle for the first time. Not to mention Peyton Manning will be standing across the field."
Wilson's NFL life began with chance meeting
By Paul A. Jannace
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Baseball is the furthest thing from Russell Wilsonís mind right now.
Itís not that Wilson has forgotten his baseball roots, but has the bit of business of trying to bring the Lombardi Trophy to Seattle for the first time. Not to mention Peyton Manning will be standing across the field.
ìIím big into visualizing and this moment right here is exactly what I visualized,î said Wilson. ìBeing here in this moment is one of those things I truly believed going into the year, after we played the preseason game against the Denver Broncos that we may play them (again).î
Wilson has actually been drafted by three different Major League Baseball teams, but his choice to stick with football is working out pretty well so far.
Whether you believe in destiny or not, Wilson has some connections to Denver and the Broncos, which came to a head when he unexpectedly got to meet Manning two years ago.
Manning had been visiting with the Broncos and watching some film when Wilson was brought in to meet the future Hall of Fame quarterback.
ìI had a chance to shake his hand,î recalled Manning. ìIt was an exciting time in his life, getting ready for the draft.î
The Broncos and Seahawks have met twice in the preseason since then and the two quarterbacks played in the 2013 Pro Bowl.
Those were meaningless games, but it may have indirectly set the stage for this showdown.
Wilson attended the Super Bowl a year ago in New Orleans, unofficially plotting his journey for the future.
ìI went to the Super Bowl just to observe and watch and did some broadcasting stuff, but my main objective within all of that was to get prepared for the situation if that was the case,î said Wilson. ìYou always have to be prepared for that.î
Wilson began his preparation for this Super Bowl early, but he almost ended up with the Broncos Ö or Colorado Rockies.
The Baltimore Orioles originally drafted Wilson out of high school in the 41st round of the 2007 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft, but he chose to go to North Carolina State instead. Then, the Colorado Rockies originally drafted Wilson in the 4th round of the 2010 draft and actually played 61 games with the Rockiesí Class A affiliate.
His flirtation with Major League Baseball led to him leaving N.C. State for Wisconsin, where he was teammates with Broncos running back Montee Ball.
The Seahawks took Wilson early in the third round even though they already had signed free agent Matt Flynn. Wilson beat Flynn out for the starting job, and Flynn has bounced around the league until ending up back with his original team, the Green Bay Packers, this past season.
Wilson, on the other hand, has had a meteoric rise to the top of the sport.
The Broncos actually passed Wilson up when they took Brock Osweiler, Manningís current back-up quarterback, in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft.
ìWhat heís accomplished in a very short time in our league doesnít surprise me at all,î said Broncos head coach John Fox. ìJust his makeup, his leadership ability, and just the kind of competitor he is.î
The Broncos probably are not regretting passing up Wilson considering the numbers Manning has put up in his two seasons with the team. Still, there might be a little extra sting if they see Wilson hoist the trophy Sunday night instead of them.
Fox and Wilsonís connection go even further than 2012, however. Fox met Wilson when he was the head coach of the Carolina Panthers during the time the Seahawks quarterback spent at N.C. State.
Wilson had options outside of football with his degree in communications and time on the baseball diamond. In fact, the Texas Rangers plucked Wilson off the Rockiesí minor league roster in the Rule 5 draft just this past fall.
Baseball is just a part of Wilsonís past for now, while broadcasting is something he hopes is far into his future. It is rare for an athlete to have the chance to play professionally in two sports. Wilson had that opportunity and the Seahawks are thankful he chose football.
ìWeíve never seen anything from Russell that wasnít a consistent direction, support, mindset, character, work habits,î said Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll. ìHeís never changed at all. Heís been readying himself throughout his playing career in all sports.î
Wilson was one of the ìotherî quarterbacks taken in the 2012 NFL draft after Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III, Ryan Tannehill and Brandon Weeden, but he is the first one to start a Super Bowl.
Standing at only 5-foot-11 undoubtedly turned some teams off to Wilson early on. Wilson turned to another quarterback short in stature yet big on success ó Drew Brees.
ìWhen I went to college and I go to N.C. State, I started watching some film on him a little bit,î said Wilson. ìWhen I went to Wisconsin, thatís when I really started watching him. I watched every single throw that he made the year before in the National Football League.î
Brees is listed one inch taller than Wilson at six feet, and has had a Hall of Fame career with eight Pro Bowls, an All-Pro selection and that Super Bowl MVP award when he beat Manning and the Indianapolis Colts.
ìHeís just great inspiration,î said Wilson. ìHeís a guy that does things right, a guy that is a great leader and heís so poised in big situations.î
The man who snaps the ball to Wilson had similar praise for the Seahawks signal caller.
ìThereís a lot of different body types, a lot of different styles, a lot of different paths to be able to play in this league,î said Seahawks center Max Unger. ìHeís carving his own (success) and itís tough to make comparisons out there, but I think heís doing a heck of a job and heís doing everything that weíre asking of him.î
Wilson is hoping he can be like Brees come Sunday night, a short quarterback standing tall among NFL greats.
Paul Jannace is the sports editor of the Wellsville Daily Reporter, a Gatehouse Media publication. He is covering his 4th Super Bowl and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/pjscribe.