(Published May 22, 2013 for Hawk Mail subscribers)
It was a gorgeous spring afternoon on the shores of Lake Washington. The view of the shimmering lake and Mercer Island in full bloom from the windows along the hallway at Virginia Mason Athletic Center would have been enough to prompt Monet to put brush to canvas.
During a rookie season that exceeded everyone’s expectations – except his own – Wilson was fond of saying, “There’s no time to sleep.” Apparently there’s no time to enjoy the serenity of the view from his room, either. Even during the offseason.
That’s because this offseason comes with heightened expectations for Wilson and his team. And if this is going to be a championship season, it must start with a champion offseason.
“The whole idea of having a championship offseason is just preparing your mind and your body and even your spirit to go to war and just get ready to have a great season,” Wilson said. “The key is eliminating the distractions and just focusing on what your ultimate goal is.
“I think the first goal for us is to make sure we prepare the right way and stay healthy. And every time you step out on the field, whether it’s for practice or a game, just be consistent. That’s whether you’re working out, or watching film, or actually on the field playing a game. Let’s be consistent. Let’s be sharp in our execution. And just capitalize on the opportunities we get.”
Wilson entering his first full offseason as the quarterback is fueling the excitement over this team that posted the third-best regular-season record in club history (11-5) and then won the franchise’s first road playoff game since 1983.
“My knowledge of the game is just so much better. My knowledge of our playbook is just so much more – and the guys that we have; how they come out of routes, how they catch the football and all that,” Wilson said. “So I think that, to be honest with you, we’re really looking sharp right now and I think we’ve improved big-time just from last year.”
Also adding to the expectations is the fact that the Seahawks had four players named All-Pro last season – running back
Coach Pete Carroll already has addressed this issue with his team.
“It’s really crucial that we handle it well,” he said. “That reality, it’s really important to own that. As the praise comes, we handle it with humility. You understand it and treat it like it’s no big deal.”
As usual, Carroll can count on his QB to lead the way.
“The challenge is when you start getting more and more attention, whether individually or as a team, you can’t shy away from those opportunities, you can’t shy away from those special moments where people want to interview you or people say a lot of great things about you,” Wilson said. “Those are good things. Those aren’t negative things. But at the end of the day, where’s your focus? Right now, our focus is on football and our focus is on just being the best that we can possibly be.”
Wilson leads by his actions, as well as his words. He is the first player to arrive each day – usually around 6 a.m.; and the last to leave – usually between 4-5 p.m.
“I’m here pretty much all the time,” is the way Wilson puts it.
The day of Harvin’s introductory news conference after he had been acquired in the trade with the Minnesota Vikings, the session was delayed briefly. No one could find Harvin, because Wilson had intercepted him and they were watching video. During the players’ break, when they weren’t allowed to workout at VMAC together, Wilson took the receivers, running backs and other QBs to Southern California for some on-field sessions.
“I think going down to California with the guys was really something that started this whole thing up,” Wilson said. “I’m fired up for the opportunities that lie ahead.
“The thing is, you can’t think too far ahead. The goal is to just stay focused on the now, and the moment you’re in right now. If you can perfect that moment – that time, that play right there – that’s going to allow you to have success in the games.
“That’s got to be our focus right now. Don’t look too far ahead. Don’t listen to all the hype. Ignore the noise. All the stuff outside and all the talk, none of that matters. At the end of the day, what matters is how we prepare – mentally and physically – and making sure that we’re eliminating those distractions so we can stay focused.”
Wilson doesn’t just walk the walk; he also talks the talk – in his own language.
Just like Chuck Knox used to. The news conferences conducted by former Seahawks coach from 1983-91 were liberally sprinkled with what seemed like platitudes, but were actually the words by which Knox lived his life and coached his players. They became known at Knoxisms.
You remember: “Play the hand you’re dealt.” “Luck is the residue of hard work.” “Don’t tell me how rough the water is, just bring the ship in.” “If a hair on my head knew what I was thinking, I’d pluck it out.” “Coaches don’t win games, players do.” “People say they are ready, but are they prepared? They’re ready for anything but prepared for nothing.” “Make second effort a part of your personality.” “Practice does not make perfect. Perfect practice makes perfect.” “Play like the opponent has his hand in your back pocket.” “Yesterday is a cancelled check. Tomorrow is a promissory note. But today is cash on the barrelhead.” “I’m going to speak real soft so you can listen real hard.” “What you do speaks so well, there’s no need to hear what you say.”
Flash forward three decades and several NFL generations, and Wilson has his own collection of sayings by which he lives his life – Wilson’s Words of Wisdom, if you will.
With that, Wilson returned to the task at hand: Reviewing plays from last year so he can execute them even better this season. Forget that view. Never mind the heightened expectations for him and his team. Those are not among the things needed to comprise a championship offseason that can create a championship season.