Russell Wilson recalls his passing past with Peyton Manning

Posted Jan 22, 2014

When Russell Wilson was a sophomore in high school, he attended Peyton Manning’s passing camp. Prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, they met again in the Broncos’ locker room. Feb. 2, they’ll square off in Super Bowl XLVIII.

A funny thing happened to Russell Wilson during his pre-draft visit to the Denver Broncos.

“Peyton Manning was sitting in the locker room, and I went up and talked to him,” the Seahawks’ second-year quarterback said Wednesday through a large smile, before offering in his best Manning impression: “He was like, ‘Have I seen you somewhere before? I think I’ve seen you. Good to see you. I must have seen you before somewhere. Where do I know you from?’ ”

Why yes he had. As Wilson explained, he had attended the Manning Passing Academy when he was a sophomore in high school, and that was even in Manning’s group.

“There were thousands of kids there, and I was actually in his group – me and 12 or 15 other guys,” Wilson said. “Just how much care for the kids, and how much detail he always talked about and what a perfectionist he was.

“I try to use that in my game. I’ve got a long ways to go, obviously. But I just try to do all the little things, and that’s what he does. He takes tons of notes. He does all the right things. And he puts his team in the right position to win football games.”

Teacher and former student are both going a long ways this time, as they’ll be reunited at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2 when Wilson leads the Seahawks against Manning and the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.

Manning, 37 and in his 16th NFL season, has been here before. Not the passing academy, but the Super Bowl. He led the Indianapolis Colts to a victory over the Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLI, and the Colts lost to the New Orleans Saints in Super Bowl XLIV. Now in his second season in Denver, Manning has led the Broncos to their first Super Bowl appearance since executive vice president of football operations John Elway quarterbacked them to back-to-back Super Bowl victories after the 1997 and 1998 seasons.

Wilson, 25, has the Seahawks in the second Super Bowl in their 38-year history, and the first since 2005.

Manning has won 167 regular-season games in his career. Wilson has won 24, the most by any QB in his first two seasons in the 94-year history of the NFL – and he’s already beaten Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Cam Newton (twice), Colin Kaepernick (twice), Matt Ryan, Tony Romo and Eli Manning in the regular season; and Kaepernick and Brees in the postseason.

Manning has thrown 738 passes this season, including playoffs; compared to 450 for Russell – which is how many completions Manning had during the regular season.

Manning set the NFL single-season record with 55 TD passes – twice as many, plus three, as Wilson had in the regular season.

No wonder Wilson and his teammates are expressing nothing by the utmost respect for Manning, a four-time league MVP who is expected to win it for a fifth time this season.

“I love him to death,” Wilson said. “He’s just a great person, first of all. And obviously a great football player, all the accolades he has and all the big games he’s won. So I have a lot of respect for him.”

Back to that pre-draft visit in 2012. The Broncos had just signed Manning, who also was wooed by the Seahawks after the Colts released him in March. In the draft, Denver added Brock Osweiler in the second round, the 57th pick overall. The Seahawks selected Wilson in the third round, with the 75th pick overall.

The signing (Manning) and the selection (Wilson) have worked out pretty well for both teams.

Each team went 13-3 in the regular season to win its division. Each team also secured the top seed in their conference for the postseason. Each team has won two playoff games at home to advance to the Super Bowl.

And if there’s a little bit of Manning in Wilson, it’s by design.

“I know that in terms of his game, I try to emulate a lot of things that he does in terms of the knowledge that he has for the game,” said Wilson, who played against Manning in the first half of the second preseason game this game. “Obviously he can make all the throws and all that. But his knowledge separates him from everybody else.

“So that’s what I’m trying to work to someday. It will be cool to watch him play. I’ll be so focused on our football team, but I’ll probably watch a few snaps here and there. He’s just a great football player.”

Take it from one happy camper, from all those years ago.