Sunday at Arizona will be Russell Wilson‘s first official NFL game, but it’s not his first dive into the deep end. Each time, the kid has come up free of the bends.
From deep in the depth, he started as a freshman for North Carolina State and held the job for three years. After leaving to play minor league baseball, he returned cold to college football, transferring to Wisconsin, where he started every game his senior year.
Now he’s a starter on his first NFL team by his first game. When the NASA rover Curiosity bumps into the Martian Football League, Wilson likely will be the first to start there.
To paraphrase an infamous remark by his coach, Pete Carroll, that is Wilson’s deal: Nothing is a big deal. He expects to be the best.
I dont get caught up in it,” he said, talking with reporters Thursday after practice at the team’s headquarters. “Im excited about the opportunity. Its another football game in a place that Ive never played before, but same distance on the field.”
Which is not to say he doesn’t appreciate the extravagant shot he’s been given, nor the odds he is scaling. It’s just that, to him, it’s the natural order of things.
“Being the starter my freshman year was an exciting moment for me,” he said. “At the same time Ive been working for that my whole life, similar to here. Going to Wisconsin, that kind of happened again (starting immediately).
“Then coming here . . . its one of those things where I just try to prepare the best way possible.”
Wilson is so athletically gifted and so relentless in his work habits that he understood he was headed for big things fast. It seems to have weighed heavily on the decision to abandon his baseball career after he was taken in the fourth round, 140th overall, in the 2010 draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Baseball would simply take him longer to get where he felt he belonged — the top.
“It was one of those things where I had an unbelievable opportunity, but I also had to take an unbelievable risk,” he said of giving up pro ball to return for a final year of college football. It was extremely tough. I was competing with myself trying to figure out what is best for my life and what do I need to do. I was just very relaxed and I prayed about it and trusted in the Lord that hed guide me in the right direction. I knew I was going to end up being successful just because of the hard work that I put into it.
“I still had a long way to go (in professional baseball). You have to go through the minor league levels. At the same time I knew I had this other thing waiting for me in football. If I didnt do that, I knew I wouldve regretted it for the rest of my life just because I wouldve never known what I couldve done in the NFL.
Even though Wilson’s feat gets most of the attention, he’s well aware he’s part of a rookie class that could have five starters on the field, should Robert Turbin, a second-round pick from Utah State, supplant at running back Marshawn Lynch, who has been limited throughout the preseason by back spasms. Overall, nine of the 10 draftees in April made the active roster, missing on linebacker Korey Toomer, a fifth-round pick from Idaho.
No. 1 pick Bruce Irvin will start at defensive end, and No. 2 pick Bobby Wagner is likely at middle linebacker. Seventh-rounder J.R. Sweezy, a converted defensive lineman and teammate of Wilson’s at North Carolina State, will start at right guard.
We always talk about that,” said Wilson, who rooms with Turbin. “We have had some group rookie meetings where we have talked about how we can impact this football team, and also how we can impact the NFL, too. We have a lot of talent, from our first-rounder in Bruce Irvin to the last guy picked (Sweezy). J.R., who played defense his whole career at N.C. State, who I grew up with and played with in college, has really made a huge difference in our football team.
“More than anything we have to keep growing and keep building on this success thus far — if you want to call it that.
A 4-0 preseason isn’t really success as much as an indication of direction. For sure, that direction is younger. The Seahawks will have only one starter in his 30s, defensive end Chris Clemons. They were the second-youngest team in the NFL last season, and won’t be far from it again.
The direction points toward better, too. That might not be apparent during the shakedown cruise of the first game. Wilson will get knocked around some, maybe a lot, but it will be because he is temporarily over-matched, not intimidated.