Since Russell Wilson became the starting quarterback of the Seahawks in 2012, Seattle has won 20 games with fourth-quarter comebacks or in overtime, including two this season. Wilson would be the first to tell you that such late-game heroics are a team effort, but when it comes to overcoming a late deficit, no player has more say in that result than the quarterback, which makes Wilson's poise under pressure one of his most valuable traits.
To understand why Wilson has been so cool under pressure, whether in NFC championship victories over San Francisco and Green Bay, or in comebacks wins this season against the Dolphins and Falcons, you need to go back a little ways. OK, you actually need to go back a long ways to Wilson's childhood and some late-night rides on Interstate 64.
On those drives between Wilson's hometown of Richmond, Virginia and Virginia Beach or Norfolk, where his grandparents lived, a young Russell Wilson would have hypotheticals thrown at him by his parents, ranging from "The game is on the line, what are you going to do?" to grandiose scenarios such as how he would handle winning the Super Bowl.
"Ever since I was probably 5 years old, ever since I could remember," Wilson said. "I remember that we used to drive to Virginia Beach and Norfolk all the time in Richmond, Virginia, because my grandparents were down there on both sides, so we used to go see him. I just had people who were very inspirational in my life and used to ask me questions like that. They allowed me to believe in myself, they also allowed me to believe in situations that things can overcome, and actually visualize it happening. I think that if you can visualize it and you can visualize yourself overcoming a situation, it gives you a great chance of making it happen."
So while Seahawks fans, and some players, showed their unhappiness in the fourth quarter Sunday when what would have been a game-tying extra point was blocked, Wilson was as calm as can be, thinking ahead to how he would lead an eventual winning drive. And sure enough, after the defense got the ball back with an Earl Thomas interception, Wilson did enough to get his team in field goal range, and Steven Hauschka, then the defense, took care of the rest. Some of that calm had to do with Wilson's personality, some of it was him knowing he has been through plenty of situations like that in the NFL and come through, but Tammy Wilson and Harrison Wilson III deserve a little credit as well.
"My parents both did a great job of encouraging me all the time, through ups and downs of life, but also in the sports too," Wilson said. "When that kick was blocked I believe, I just move on to the next play, because there is a lot of time left in the game. I'm not sure how much more time was left in the game, probably about five more minutes or so, and those are the moments that are galvanizing. It brings people together, and you look forward to those moments. I believe that's why we have been able to overcome a lot of situations, a lot of opportunities where we have been able to win a lot of football games. We don't give up and we believe in Steve because in my opinion he's the best kicker in the National Football League. We got a lot of those guys across the board. Confidence never wavers in our teammates and I believe that with continual self-talk, positive talk, I believe that it's a game changer."
One of Wilson's favorite memories of those late-night drives—Harrison Wilson liked to head home late at night when there was no traffic—came when he was 14 and half asleep after a baseball game. The elder Wilson excitedly woke his son up with an important message.
"He woke me up early in the morning while I was sitting next to him and he was jamming to oldies," Wilson said. "And he says to me, 'Hey, hey, guess what?' And I said, 'Dad, I'm halfway asleep, what's up?' He goes, 'Remember, there's a king in every crowd.' I'm like, there's a king in a crowd? I'm trying to visualize a king in a crowd, what does this look like. He allowed me to understand what that meant. What that meant is that God is always there, what it meant with my dad passing away, that I believe he has the best seat in the house. You never know what coach, you never know what GM is watching, you never know what owner, what kid is watching, that's really the thing that hit me the most. When I think about those things, when I run out on the filed before pregame and I'm thinking about the game, maybe it's quote, unquote, a big moment or a big game, to me it's just another great moment. I look forward to those moments even in challenging times. One of my favorite scriptures is James 1:2, 'Consider it pure joy when you go through trials and tribulations, because they're testing your faith.' It's so true because if you can have that perspective where you can look forward to the moments, I think that it gives you a great chance to overcome it."
He couldn't have possibly known it at the time, but on those trips from Richmond to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Wilson was learning skills that would eventually help him become one of the NFL's best quarterbacks.
"It allowed me to kind of think on my own about how I want to overcome obstacles," Wilson said. "The truth is, adversity is just temporary. I think that when you can really realize that, you look forward to the challenges."
The Seahawks held practice inside Virginia Mason Athletic Center on Thursday as the team prepares for the Arizona Cardinals.