Much of the Seahawks' success the past three years can be attributed to Russell Wilson's relentless work ethic.
During the season, the Seattle quarterback prides himself on being the first person in and last person out of team headquarters each day. He stays late to throw after practice, continually looking to build rapport with the team's wide receivers, running backs, and tight ends. His devotion to film study would rival any of his NFL peers. And he's coined phrases like "The Separation Is In The Preparation" and "No Time 2 Sleep" to remind himself and others about the importance of hard work.
Since the team selected Wilson in the third round (No. 75 overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft, the Seahawks are a combined 36-12, a record that gives Wilson the most regular-season wins by a starting quarterback in his first three seasons within the Super Bowl era (since 1966). When factoring in the postseason, Wilson has notched 42 victories, including the Seahawks' first road playoff win since 1983, back-to-back NFC Championships, and the franchise's first Super Bowl.
But Wilson believes it's a commitment to excellence in the offseason that has helped keep the Seahawks on top.
Russell Wilson and the Seahawks players continuing what has now become an offseason tradition with a player-organized optional "camp". Sunday morning many players met at VMAC before heading off to Hawaii.
The team's official offseason program doesn't get going until April 20, but players and their families gathered at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center this past Sunday before embarking on a chartered flight to the Hawaiian Islands, where they'll spend the next week working out away from Seattle coaches, staff, and personnel.
"This will be our third year doing it, obviously, to get back to football," Wilson said on Sunday. "It never really leaves our mind, but just to go over plays and just get throwing with the guys again. But most importantly, I think it's a great team-bonding experience and I think it catapults our season and the journey of our season."
Wilson, who's led the Seahawks in offseason practices the past two years in Hermosa Beach, Calif., is again the captain steering this year's trip. It's the first time the annual player-driven effort will include Seahawks from the defensive side of the football, as Wilson hopes to conduct seven-on-seven workouts in between weight-room sessions and extracurricular activities under the Hawaiian sun.
"The goal and focus is to be completely invested," said Wilson. "Invested in growing as players. Invested in growing as teammates. Invested in growing as men. Completely invested is our mission."
Wilson said the team's trip to Hawaii is as much about building relationships with one another off the field as it is on it. One Seahawk who's hoping to establish himself in both areas this week is Jimmy Graham, the three-time Pro Bowl tight end the Seahawks acquired in a trade with the New Orleans Saints last month. Graham, who cited Wilson as the first player to reach out when news of the trade initially broke, said he's looking forward to making a good first impression with his new club.
"I just want to let everybody know who I am, what I'm about, and really just get to put some personalities with guys that I've played on the field or that I've seen in the film room," the 6-foot-7, 265-pound, 28-year-old Graham said from his new locker on Sunday. "Now it's just kind of working on those bonds and just becoming a part of this team and getting to know [Russell Wilson]. I'm excited for that part.
"From what I've seen he's got all the tools," Graham added of Wilson. "He's so good and I just want to get on his page. I'm going to be here with him catching, running these routes as much as possible and for as many times as he's willing to throw."
Wilson shared a similar sentiment when asked about getting to work with a highly-productive, big-target like Graham - a piece that's been missing from the Seahawks' passing game.
"He's got amazing talent," Wilson said of Graham, who's tallied 355 catches for 4,396 yards and 46 touchdowns the past four seasons (2011-14). "He's a guy that competes at all costs and he wants to be the best to ever do it at his position, so it'll be exciting. I've been talking to him. He's really pumped up. He's excited to work. He's excited to get in the locker room with the guys and show how hard he works and what he's about.
"He's a championship-type player and we're glad to have him on a championship-type team."
On Sunday, players wasted little time before blasting the social media world with status updates, photos, and videos of their travels to the island paradise.
On top of Wilson and Graham, Seahawks wide receivers Jermaine Kearse and Kevin Norwood, tight end Luke Willson, fullback Derrick Coleman, linebackers Bruce Irvin and Bobby Wagner, cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Cary Williams, and Will Blackmon, strong safety Kam Chancellor and more were part of the Seahawks collective that departed from VMAC, with others scheduled to join the players in Hawaii later this week.
As Graham noted in a conference call last month, and as Sunday's social media scenes show, the Seahawks exhibit a culture that "breeds a brotherhood." Starting with this week's Wilson-led camp in Hawaii, Graham is striving to join the family.
"I'm like that cousin they didn't know about," Graham said with a smile. "I've just got to come in and just be me. I work hard and I'm a team guy. I've always been like that. I love to win no matter what.
"I'm going to do whatever it takes to win and really to be a part of this, because they've got something special going on here."