Coming off a standout rookie season in 2012, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson went to the Pro Bowl, where in addition to throwing three touchdowns in the game, he took advantage of sharing a practice field for a week with established star quarterbacks like Drew Brees and Eli Manning. In years since his first Pro Bowl, Wilson has mentioned that week in Hawaii as an important time for him in his career because of the lessons he learned from those players, as well as Peyton Manning, who was on the AFC squad.
So when a rookie quarterback was on Wilson's team at the Pro Bowl last winter, it should hardly come as a surprise that Wilson was more than happy to help Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston in any way he could. On Sunday, those two will be on opposite sidelines trying to beat each other's teams when the Buccaneers host the Seahawks, but there is nothing but mutual respect between the two quarterbacks involved.
"You can learn just about anything from Russell Wilson," Winston said on a conference call with Seattle-area media. "I personally believe that he is one of the best quarterbacks in this league, as far as passing and being able to use his legs. I like to view him and watch film on him just because he is a complete player. I had a chance to spend some time with him at the Pro Bowl, just seeing the type of guy he is. He's just a top notch guy, a true professional. He actually helped me with my offseason preparation as far as eating right and making sure I kept my body right."
Wilson came away from that meeting with the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft equally impressed.
"He's a great competitor first of all, Jameis," Wilson said. "I love him as a quarterback. He's phenomenal, makes a lot of great plays, a lot of great throws. Like I said, he's the ultimate competitor. Being around him was great, to spend time with him and we really connected, we really clicked in a really good way. He was asking a ton of questions, and I remember when I was a rookie and I was able to go to the Pro Bowl and I was around Drew Brees and Eli Manning and Peyton Manning, those guys. I was able to ask Drew and Peyton, specifically, a bunch of questions and just trying to gain knowledge of the game and how they do it and how they go about their professionalism and all that. Those were a lot of the questions I guess Jameis was asking in the sense of how I go about the week, how I go about the offseason and different little things. Like I said, he's a great player, I have tons of respect for who he is and what he's been doing. He's a great football player and he'll be a great football player for a long time."
Throughout his career, Wilson has made a point of seeking out wisdom from former championship-winning and Hall of Fame players or coaches whenever he can, and the advice he has always heard has a common theme.
"Every single person, a lot of those people were Hall of Fame coaches or players that I asked, all of them said that the biggest difference is those who can be consistent on and off the field in your daily approach, how they approach the game, how they approach practice, how they approach life, their attitude," Wilson said. "Ultimately, continuing to put the game at its highest, meaning respecting the process. Always respecting the process, always respecting the journey, treating every day as a new day. I gravitated towards that. That's how my parents raised me, I attribute a lot of that to my mom and my dad, how they raised me. Respecting the opportunity that you have and being grateful for the opportunity."
Some might question if it's wise to pass helpful tips on to a potential competitor, but just as players like Brees and the Mannings were willing to help Wilson, he too had no problem helping a young rookie learn what it takes to be a pro.
For starters, Wilson says those conversations with a young player like Winston help him learn new things too, while also serving as reminders of what it takes to stay on top of his game, and secondly, he adds, "When you love the game, how could you not share the game?"
As for the quarterback the Seahawks will face Sunday, Winston is enjoying himself an impressive sophomore campaign, especially of late as he has helped the Buccaneers win four of their last six games following a 1-3 start. Winston, who has 20 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions this season, has thrown just two interceptions in the last six games, and has posted a passer rating over 100 in three of his past five games.
"He's really good," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "We've seen him for years, I've been watching him through his Florida State days. He's a terrific competitor, he's just a great ball player. He has sense and savvy and guts and the confidence that the really good players have. He demonstrates the confidence in the choices that he makes. How he throws the ball and when he throws it, and the kind of traffic he'll throw it into. He has belief in his arm and accuracy, it jumps out. He's not sloppy at all with the ball, he's very good. I think he's going to be a great player. I don't think there's any question. He can move around well enough for a big man, he'll take off and make yards with a scramble as well. I think he's really good and they're using him in great fashion."
In their all-time regular-season series, the Seahawks and Buccaneers have faced off 12 times with the Seahawks leading the series 8-4. The two teams will play again this Sunday at Raymond James Stadium.