Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is one of five nominees for an ESPY Award in the category “Best Breakthrough Athlete.” ESPN’s annual sports award show will hand out its awards in Los Angeles July 17. Wilson, a sensation as a rookie in 2012 as he led the Seahawks to the playoffs after entering the NFL as a third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, has some absurdly tough competition.
Also nominated: San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Texas A&M freshman quarterback Johnny Manziel (Heisman Trophy winner), Los Angeles Dodgers hitting sensation Yasiel Puig, and Los Angeles Angels outfielder Mike Trout.
Kaepernick took over as San Francisco’s starting quarterback at midseason and led the 49ers to the Super Bowl after throwing for 1,814 yards and 10 touchdowns with a 98.3 passer rating in seven starts.
Manziel, nicknamed “Johnny Football” by A&M fans, became the first freshman to win the Heisman and also the first to win the Davey O’Brien National Quarterback Award. He threw for 3,706 yards and 26 touchdowns and led A&M to a 41-13 Cotton Bowl victory over Oklahoma.
In the major leagues slightly more than a month, Puig hit eight home runs and batted .436 with 44 hits in June. According to Elias Sports Bureau, no player to debut since 1900 hit for a higher batting average in his first calendar month (minimum 60 at-bats) than Puig’s .436.
Also according to Elias, the only player to debut since 1900 with more hits Puig in his first big-league calendar month was Joe DiMaggio, who had 48 in May 1936.
As a 20-year-old in 2012, Trout hit .326 with 30 home runs, 83 RBIs and a league-leading 49 stolen bases. He won the American League Rookie of the Year award after leading all major league players in wins above replacement (10.9).
Wilson, who beat out veteran Matt Flynn in a training camp battle, which eventually led to Flynn’s trade to the Oakland Raiders, directed the Seahawks to an 11-5 record and led Seattle to its first road playoff victory since 1983.
Wilson flourished in the second half. In Week 13, Wilson orchestrated fourth-quarter and overtime drives of 97 and 80 yards against the Bears in Chicago. A week later, Wilson directed the biggest win — 58-0 over Arizona — in Seahawks history.
He rushed for three touchdowns in Week 15 at Buffalo (played in Toronto), leading the Seahawks to a 50-17 rout. In Week 16, Wilson threw four touchdowns in a 42-13 blitz of San Francisco. And in Week 17, he had a season-best 136.3 passer rating against the St. Louis Rams.
Wilson’s 28 touchdown passes in the regular season tied Peyton Manning’s rookie record that had stood for 15 years.
But will that be good enough to beat Kaepernink, Manziel, Puig and Trout for an ESPY?