Russell Wilson has won a Super Bowl, played in Pro Bowls and set numerous franchise records, but until Wednesday, he had never had a celebratory press conference like this one.
The Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft and, well, third-round picks typically don’t get press conferences. When he signed his contract extension in 2015, that got done just before the start of the training camp, so the timing wasn’t right for a more formal press conference, meaning he addressed the media off the practice field.
But one day after Wilson signed a contract extension that runs through the 2023 season, he sat at a table in between general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll in a scene befitting a six-time Pro-Bowler who has won more games and thrown more touchdown passes than any other quarterback in franchise history.
“This is a day that Paul Allen would have been extremely proud of, and excited for Russ,” Schneider said. “Jody (Allen) has taken over and was extremely supportive through the entire process. I want to thank (agent) Mark Rodgers for his effort as well as (vice president of football administration) Matt Thomas. It's a big day, pretty awesome.
“We were never able to have a press conference for Russ, because he was a third-round draft pick. The last time we did this (contract extension in 2015), we had to send him right out to the field to get going.”
While Wilson, 30, is locked up for another five years, he plans on playing longer, and has every intention of finishing a lengthy career where it began with him winning the starting job as a rookie seven years ago.
“I wanted to be in Seattle,” Wilson said. “It’s just because really from the beginning of my professional career, it started here and my goal was to end it here. My goal is to have a lasting impression on this city, to be able to make a lot of people’s lives (better)—to cheer at the top of their lungs at football games and hopefully win a lot of Super Bowls. And I can’t do it without you two guys next to me, couldn’t do it without you guys believing in me, couldn’t do it without my teammates making the difference, and so I’m just grateful for this opportunity. When it came down to it, it was a no brainer for me to want to be in Seattle and I want to be a Seahawk for life. That was kind of my mentality.
“The guys I’ve always admired in sports, the guys that played at (their) locations for 15-20 years. Guys like Derek Jeter, I want to be like that. I want to be remembered in that sense of what we want to do here in Seattle. So we’re just getting started. I’m excited about where we’re headed and what we’re doing. We’ve got a great football team. A lot of amazing talents, guys who’ve worked extremely hard, great character guys. There’s a lot of winning in this locker room. We’re looking forward to making sure we make that happen.”
Wilson said he hopes to have a 20-year career in Seattle, which would take him into his 40s, and Carroll was quick to interject that he’d like to see that happen as well. After all, Carroll has had a front-row seat to watch Wilson help the Seahawks reach the playoffs six times in seven years while posting the second-highest passer rating in NFL history.
“It's such a big day for us to look ahead, based on the great history we've had playing, coaching and working together, knowing we get another whole episode for our fans, for the organization and for Russell and his family too,” Carroll said. “It's a really exciting day for us. We're really proud of it. He's happy to be here.”
The Seahawks got to this day, of course, because they were willing to overlook Wilson’s one perceived flaw—his height—and instead pick him with the 75th pick in the 2012 draft because of all the things he does so well. But as strongly as Schneider and the rest of his scouting department felt about Wilson on draft day, it’s hard to imagine anyone saw quite this spectacular of a career unfolding.
“I knew he was going to be the highest-paid player in the history of the National Football League at that moment,” Schneider said sarcastically. “Nah… I had very strong conviction, but winning a Super Bowl as quickly as we did, and to be able to compete with two super classy veterans and Matt Flynn and (Tarvaris Jackson) to come in like that, once that happened then it was on.”
As Schneider referenced early in the press conference, Wilson’s last contract extension got done just before the start of training camp, so this time Wilson and the Seahawks operated with an April 15 deadline in place—the first day of Seattle’s offseason workout program—to get something done, a move both sides said worked out well.
“The reality was we were coming back to play football,” Wilson said. “I have an obsession with football. I just want to play the game. I just want to be able to focus on that. I remember the first time, with the other contract, it was one of those things that took us all away to the summertime, right before training camp—literally to 11:50 that night and everything else. The next day, we were practicing. For me, and for everyone involved really, the whole organization, it was really more so of a ‘Hey, let’s make sure we don’t have to drag out this whole process.’ Everybody writing, everybody talking, everybody speculating. These thoughts and this thought. Let’s remain focused on what I really want: winning. Let’s do everything we can to prepare in that way."
Schneider added that “the April 15th deal for us was a good idea. The last one, quite frankly, took too long and took a lot of energy away from what we’re supposed to be doing.”
With the deal done, Wilson and the Seahawks can now focus on a long future together, one they expect to produce a lot more success.
“I think I'm just starting,” Wilson said. “That's the fun part of this. It's been pretty cool for the first seven years of my career, but I feel like the glass is still full, and there’s a lot more, and hopefully we can be on the overflow, in the sense of going where we want to go and how we want to do it. If you look at just quarterbacks in the past, and I've been able to talk to some great quarterbacks—guys like Drew (Brees), guys like Tom (Brady), a lot of other guys, as well—and just asking them about their careers, and what made the differences in their careers, and how it went and how it is now, and that's where I want to be. Ultimately, you try to learn as much as you can. You are on a constant quest for knowledge. And you just stay focused on the task at hand. Just turning 30, I feel like I am just beginning. So hopefully I can play here for another 10, 15 years.”
And another important aspect of staying in Seattle for Wilson is being able to maintain the work he has done in the community, which began the week he arrived in Seattle for rookie minicamp with a visit to Seattle Children’s hospital, a tradition he has continued almost every Tuesday for the past seven years.
“One of the coolest parts is just thinking about this community,” he said. “Just thinking about when I got here on May 10, 2012, and calling Seattle Children's hospital and just being able to dive into this community and help in any way I can.
“Like I said kind of at the beginning, hopefully I can inspire somebody else, some young kid, some young girl, whoever that may be. And if I can change one kid's life, it's worth it. For me to be here standing on this stage with John and Pete and this organization and everything else, every early morning, every late night, every opportunity, every disappointment, every high and every low, it's been worth it. And I think, like I said, it's just beginning.”
Photos from Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson's contract signing and press conference at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center.