PHOENIX – Russell Wilson visualized his primetime moment a decade ago while throwing tight spirals to his father, Harrison Wilson III, in the backyard of his childhood home in Richmond, Va.
The daily ritual was simple. His father would wake up Russell and his older brother, Harrison IV, at 6 a.m. every day for throwing sessions.
The two Harrisons ran routes, with Russell throwing darts in his pursuit of a future job as an NFL quarterback.
“We’d throw speed outs and everything,” Russell Wilson said. “That dedication, I think, started at a young age and it’s never changed. And it won’t waver.”
Now, Wilson has a chance to put all that hard work and dedication on display this afternoon as the team’s unlikely starting quarterback when the Seattle Seahawks meet NFC West Division rival Arizona at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz.
While others doubted he could get it done in the NFL at 5-foot-11, Wilson always believed.
“You only get so many days in your lifetime and you want to maximize every day,” Wilson said. “My dad would always tell me, ‘You have your birth, you have your death, but it’s all about that hash mark in between.’ I’m trying to do everything I can to maximize my potential and maximize my opportunities. That’s the way I look at life.”
Wilson is his father’s son, both in his temperament and appearance, Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow Sr. said.
Harrison Wilson III graduated from Dartmouth, where he played football and basketball. He later attended law school at the University of Virginia, but after receiving his law degree, Harrison Wilson III was invited to training camp with the San Diego Chargers in 1980.
There, he and Winslow were roommates. Winslow said the fleet-footed Harrison Wilson III probably would have made the team as the fifth receiver, but the Chargers decided to keep four tight ends instead because of Winslow’s ability to line up on the perimeter.
Winslow said Russell Wilson has a close facial resemblance to his father. Players called Wilson III “The Professor” because of his Ivy League background, Winslow said.
“I just get giddy when I see Harry’s kid out there,” Winslow said. “That’s his dad. He’s smart, organized and very athletic.”
Wilson’s father died two years ago after a long battle with diabetes. Wilson said his brother, Harrison Wilson IV, six years older, is the person he leans on now that his father has moved on.
Wilson’s brother sends him texts throughout the week to try and keep him focused on what’s important in life.
Harrison Wilson IV played football and baseball at Richmond, and lives in Chicago with his wife and newborn baby. Russell Wilson said his brother will be watching the game from the Windy City.
“My brother has really mentored me throughout my life because he has been through it all with me,” Wilson said. “In terms of growing up, in terms of pushing me as a young athlete and a young man he has helped me.”
More than anything, the reason Wilson is one of five rookie starting quarterbacks starting this weekend is his confidence and relentless work ethic.
“It doesn’t surprise me,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said about Wilson earning the starting job. “If you’ve spent any time with him, you know how driven he is, how committed he is and how much he wants to make himself better. And he’s done that each and every day he’s been out here. He’s basically slept in the building to make himself learn the offense. And he’s just done a great job.”
Seattle’s best offensive player, running back Marshawn Lynch, echoed those sentiments.
“It’s crazy because I know as a rookie I was nowhere as detail-oriented as he is as far as coming in on a day off,” Lynch said.
“With a day off to a rookie, that’s a day off. Not too many of them see the facility. He’s in here throwing balls and doing extra work in the training room. So you could kind of sense he came in with the mindset that, ‘Yeah I’m a rookie, but that don’t mean nothing.’”
And just like those early morning throwing sessions as a teenager, Wilson already has visualized the plays he will make against the Cardinals this afternoon.
“The main thing is, the night before the game, I go through the playbook and my notes and check out the different coverages or whatever the situation is; try and have an escape route and a protection planned and know where I am going with the football,” he said. “The next morning I do the exact same thing. And by the time I get to the field, it’s game time and I’m ready to go.
“That’s one thing I will never not do is not prepare enough. I think that’s the way I’ll have to be to be successful, and that’s how I’ve always been.”firstname.lastname@example.org