DAPHNE, Ala. – He has this "proving doubters wrong" stuff almost down to an exact science now. Whether it has been questions about his physical stature, playing style or playing at all, Mr. Russell Wilson has answered each with aplomb and performance.
In short, the Seattle Seahawks quarterback and 2015 winner of the Jim Thorpe All-Around Award by the United States Sports Academy pretty much has responded, without so much as saying a word, "Oh yeah, watch this" – with the results, no matter how or where they're achieved, tending to show that it would be wise to stop debating this young man's merits or his intentions.
The award is presented to an individual who has demonstrated outstanding achievement in multiple sports and/or multiple events of the same sport. This individual should exhibit qualities of versatility, strength, speed, flexibility, conditioning and training that exemplify superior athletic prowess.
Wilson embodies every word of that. A gifted athlete, he can play his position so many different ways it boggles the mind. He can be the standard, drop-back quarterback, the scrambler, the run-first guy, the thinking man's signal-caller, the game manager, the game changer, anything you want, he possesses in his bag of tricks with room to spare. Considered by most experts as too small to be a successful quarterback, at any level, never mind the NFL, Wilson, with his 5-foot-11, 206-pound frame has merely starred in high school, college and the pros.
A two-time schoolboy player of the year in Richmond, Va., Wilson became the first freshman quarterback in Atlantic Coast Conference history to earn first-team all-conference honors. After starring at North Carolina State for three seasons, he graduated and transferred to Wisconsin, taking advantage of an NCAA rule that allowed him to use his final year of eligibility immediately. In his one season there, Wilson merely set the single-season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8) and led the Badgers to the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl appearance. He was named the Big Ten's first-team quarterback and some All-America acclaim.
Lasting until the third round in the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson went to Seattle and earned the starting job en route to a Rookie of the Year campaign. A year later, he led the Seahawks to their first Super Bowl victory. The year after, making a mockery of those who labeled the title run a fluke, Wilson directed Seattle back into the NFL championship game, where only a miraculous, fourth-quarter comeback by the New England Patriots kept Wilson and Co. from repeating.
A far better passer than he's ever crediting with being, as a 63.4 percent NFL career completion percentage would attest, Wilson is immeasurably dangerous when he opts to tuck the ball and run. He's totaled 1,877 yards on the ground in his first three seasons with Seattle, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. But the true beauty of his game is that he may start to run and then pass, or he may start to roll out to pass and then run. Opposing defenses are left in a quandary.
This past season, which culminated with the Super Bowl loss to New England, Wilson was a dual-threat dynamo, passing and running for career highs of 3,475 and 849 yards. The latter total is made all the more remarkable by the fact he only needed 118 carries (7.2 average) to achieve that. Frankly, it could be argued he actually outplayed his winning counterpart, all-time great Tom Brady, in the Super Bowl, posting better passing and total quarterback ratings while throwing for 247 yards and two scores and running for another 39 on just 3 carries.
Aside from his multi-dimensional skills on full display each Sunday in the fall, Wilson ultimately may end up matching Thorpe in trying his hand professionally at football and baseball. Actually, Wilson has played pro ball, just in the minor leagues. He was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles in the 41st round of the 2007 MLB Draft, but opted to follow through on a scholarship offer to N.C. State. After quarterbacking the Wolfpack football in the fall, he managed to play shortstop on the baseball team in the spring. Following his junior season, he was drafted in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies and played for their A-level affiliates in 2010 and 2011.
In December of 2013, the Texas Rangers acquired his rights in the Rule 5 draft, and Wilson, after being involved with the team this spring, has voiced his love for the game and an underlying desire to try his hand at baseball at the highest level.
The United States Sports Academy is an independent, non-profit, accredited, special mission Sports University created to serve the nation and world with programs in instruction, research, and service. The role of the Academy is to prepare men and women for careers in the profession of sports. For more information about the Academy visit www.ussa.edu.