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"I Want To Make A Difference." Russell Wilson Left A Legacy Bigger Than Football

Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was great on the field during his decade in Seattle, but his impact off the field might have been even greater. 


From the time he arrived in Seattle as a third-round pick through his 10th season in the NFL that saw him earn Pro Bowl honors for the ninth time, Russell Wilson established himself as one of the best players in the league.

Over the course of 10 seasons, Wilson accomplished so much on the field, from the two trips to the Super Bowl, one a memorable 43-8 win over the Broncos, eight playoff berths and nine winning seasons; to the numerous franchise records, including career and single season records for touchdown passes, passing yards, completions, completion percentage and passer rating; to the 113 wins, the most by a quarterback in his first 10 seasons in NFL history; to the remarkable durability that saw him start the first 149 games of his career, but for all of the things Wilson got done between the lines—or as he so often put it, the 100 yards by 53 1/3 yards of the field—those stats, accolades and wins are only a part of his legacy in Seattle.

Wilson, who was traded to the Denver Broncos in a deal that became official Wednesday, is moving on off after a decade in Seattle, but just as the memories he made off the field will be remembered long after his playing days are over, so too will be all the lives he touched with his work in the community.

Dating back to his rookie season when he began making weekly visits to Seattle Children's Hospital, and continuing on through the work he and his wife, Ciara, did through their Why Not You Foundation and several other charitable endeavors, as well as the Why Not You Academy, Wilson made a lasting mark in the community he called home for the past 10 years. Since its founding in 2014, the Why Not You Foundation has raised more than $10 million in partnership with Safeway and Albertsons to fund cancer treatments and research, including life-saving immunotherapy treatments that combat pediatric cancer.

"I got out here and my whole thought process on my heart was, I want to make a difference," Wilson said after he won the Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award. "One, I want to start, I want to play, I want to have a long career and win multiple Super Bowls and hopefully go the Hall of Fame, do all that stuff—that was my thought process my rookie year before I even hopped on the plane here. The other part was I really wanted to make an impact on the city, and I really wanted to be able to make a difference in the community."

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Wilson and Ciara donated 1 million meals to Feeding America and Food Lifeline, then later partnered with the aviation company Wheels Up to launch the Meals Up campaign, which raised the equivalent of more than 50 million meals, all of which helped Wilson win the prestigious Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award in 2020, making him only the second player in team history, along with Steve Largent, to win NFL Man of the Year honors. Wilson, a nine-time team captain, also won the Bart Starr Award in 2021, and was voted by teammates as the winner of the Steve Largent Award three times.

Wilson's passion for philanthropy started with his parents, Harrison and Tammy Wilson, who instilled in their children a drive not just to do great things in life, but to make a difference in the community at the same time. And for a decade in Seattle, Wilson did just that.

"My dad always told me, it's the hashmark in between of significance that you can leave on a place," Wilson said after he and Ciara presented a check for $2.7 million to Seattle Children's Hospital's Immuno Heroes campaign prior to Seattle's Week 17 win over the Lions, which ended up being his final home game with the Seahawks. "You always want to leave a place better, you always want to go to a place and make it better. You want to always encourage people and make people believe. That's why I went to the hospitals. My mom was an ER nurse and did so many different things. I've seen my dad pass away in a hospital room when the line went flat, so for me I understand what it's like to lose family members, to lose loved ones and all that… To be able to live life with (Ciara) and to be able to give back and give a little glimpse of hope, it's what life's really all about. I believe that God's given me so much ability but also so much opportunity to serve, and I just thank God every day I get to serve and to give back and to help. And that's what's been probably the coolest part of the journey is just to be able to make a difference for people and to see kids walk in with cancer and then to be able to help raise funds or to be able to encourage them, give them a word of 'Why not you?' or whatever it may be, give them that glimpse of hope.

"For me and Ciara, we've seen that happen over and over and over again, the success rate of (immunotherapy). We've seen kids walk out of the hospital room with no more cancer and no more problems. And we've also lost some too. But the belief and the hope that someone else is going to be encouraged, that just maybe if there's a small chance maybe they get to walk out of that hospital room, it's worth every second, every minute and every hour, every day to wake up with that kind of encouragement and love."

Russell Wilson's community service efforts have been numerous and varied, a big reason he has received the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award and 2022 Bart Starr Award. Take a look at photos of Wilson in the community from throughout his time with the Seahawks.

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