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Larry Fitzgerald on Russell Wilson: ‘He’s a phenomenal player’
Is there anything this kid can’t do?
It’s been asked before during Russell Wilson’s rookie season that only got progressively better in quantum leaps and boundless bounds, but needs to be asked again after his Pro Bowl performance on Sunday. And the answer remains a resounding, “No.”
The other question that needs to be asked: How was the Seahawks’ quarterback not voted the game’s MVP? All he did was throw three touchdown passes while leading the NFC on five consecutive scoring drives after taking over – and taking control – in the second half of what turned out to be a 62-35 NFC romp at Aloha Stadium.
Asked about Wilson after the game, Larry Fitzgerald broke into a smile and shook his head as he looked across the locker room at the kid QB.
“He’s a phenomenal player,” said Fitzgerald, the wide receiver for the NFC West rival Arizona Cardinals who had just played in his seventh Pro Bowl. “You watch him throughout the year; he’s a mature young man. It’s been great to be around him this week to see how serious he takes it. You see why he’s able to have the success he’s had.
“The only bad about Russell Wilson is he plays in our division.”
Fitzgerald had an up-close-and-personal view of Wilson’s prodigious progression, because the Seahawks opened the regular season against the Cardinals in Arizona, played them in Seattle in Week 14 and then was his Pro Bowl teammate last week. The second of Wilson’s three TD passes in Sunday’s game went to Fitzgerald.
“It’s been fun being around him, and I want to see him do well because he’s such a nice young person,” Fitzgerald said.
Mature. Serious. Nice. Those same labels were used to describe Fitzgerald when he entered the league in 2004 as the third pick in the NFL Draft.
“Not like him,” Fitzgerald said when reminded of that. “He’s on a whole other level. He’s got such a great understanding of history about the game. He’s always talking football and wants to know what’s going on. He has an infectious attitude. People gravitate to him and want to be around him.”
Wilson had to wait his turn on Sunday, as the New Orleans Saints’ Drew Brees and New York Giants’ Eli Manning split the quarterbacking duties for the NFC in the first half. But once on the field, Wilson turned in just his latest – and last – impressive performance of the 2012 season.
Each of the other five QBs in the game threw more passes. Five of them had more passing yards. Three of them had more completions. But Wilson threw the most scoring passes, and had the best passer rating (147.1) after his 8-of-10, 98-yard, three-TD pass, no-interception outing.
On his first series, which started at the AFC 43-yard line after an interception by teammate Earl Thomas, Wilson was 3 of 3 – to three different receivers – for 48 yards. His TD pass was an all-rookie thing, as it went to Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ running back Doug Martin for 28 yards. On his second series, which followed a Pro Bowl-record 92-yard kickoff return by teammate Leon Washington, Wilson proved he is indeed human by getting sacked on the second play. But he then flaunted his resiliency by scrambling for 13 yards and then threw a 9-yard TD pass to Fitzgerald on fourth down. On his third series, which started at the AFC 18 after a fumble recovery, Wilson put the ball where only a tightly covered Buccaneers wide receiver Vincent Jackson could get it for a 5-yard TD – again on fourth down. On his fourth series, which followed another fumble recovery, the NFC settled for a field goal. On his fifth series, Wilson was 3 of 4 for 41 yards before Minnesota Vikings fullback Jerome Felton scored on a 3-yard run.
We repeat: How did Wilson not get the MVP award (which went to Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph, who caught five passes for 122 yards and a touchdown)?
But what Wilson won was even more impressive – increased respect from the other players in the conference, as well as even more admiration from the teammates he led to an 11-5 record during the regular season and then the franchise’s first road playoff victory since 1983 with a win over the Washington Redskins in the wild-card round.
“Russell has done a remarkable job since Day One,” Thomas said. “There’s just something about him. He has a glow about him when he’s walking around the locker room. Everybody respects him. He’s just a true pro. I can’t really explain it better than that.
“He’s a big part of our team and was a big part of our success this year. He’s done a great job just managing the game and making all the great plays he’s made with his legs and his arm. He makes everybody better. He’s really a point guard out there.”
So for the other five Seahawks who played in Sunday’s game, Wilson’s big game was just him playing his game.
“He’s unbelievable, like we’ve seen so many times before,” offered teammate Marshawn Lynch, who was the game’s leading rusher and scored one of the two rushing touchdowns in the Pro Bowl. “Ain’t nothing changed. That’s just him.”
Wilson’s take? “It’s a great way to end the season,” he said.