Wilson uses attention to detail, preparation to excel at quarterback

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comSeptember 5, 2013 

Russell Wilson does not leave anything to chance.

That the quarterback was able to play so well in his first season with the Seattle Seahawks was no accident: It was done with dedication and meticulous attention to detail.

Along with the iPad that each player receives with a playbook loaded onto it, Wilson has three notebooks — one each for pass plays, run plays and pass protections — that he pores through daily and uses as study guides away from the practice field.

His neat and tidy locker includes a minute-by-minute breakdown of his daily schedule, his personal goals for the season, and a motivational quote from Michael Jordan.

Wilson said these habits began at a young age when he would watch his late father, Harrison Wilson III, write to-do lists for his day, and his life.

“That kind of kick-started me,” Wilson said. “I’m a self-motivator. So for me, I’m going to do whatever it takes to get myself prepared to play. So if I can prepare better than anyone else, if I can prepare for that game-winning throw or game-winning situation, then that’s where I separate myself.

“And so the relentless note-taking and attention to detail started with my dad helping me observe other people.”

That focus also is a factor in one of Wilson’s best attributes: decision making. As important as it is for a quarterback to possess physical talents, it’s crucial to be able to quickly read a defense and decide what is the best thing to do.

Warren Moon, now a Seahawks broadcaster after a Hall of Fame career as a quarterback, said Wilson is part of a unique rookie quarterback class that far exceeded expectations, largely because of how they handled the mental aspect of the position.

“That whole class last year, I think, is ahead of the curve as far as decision making,” Moon said. “Andrew Luck (of the Indianapolis Colts) is the same way. RGIII (Robert Griffin III of the Washington Redskins) is the same way.

“Russell just puts so much time in. If you put that much time in, studying and watching, there’s no question your decision making is going to improve. Most guys don’t put as much time as he does in. But I hear the same thing about Colin Kaepernick (of the San Francisco 49ers), the way he studies and trains, and the same thing about Andrew Luck.”

Wilson’s preparation paid off with one of the top rookie seasons:

 • In turnover to touchdown ratio, Wilson finished with a plus-16 (26 touchdowns, 10 interceptions), which is the best in NFL history for a rookie.

 • He set a franchise single-season mark with a 100.0 passer rating, joining Griffin as the only two qualifying rookies with passer ratings that high in NFL history.

 • Wilson had a league-best 123.6 home passer rating, throwing for 17 touchdowns with two interceptions in Seattle.

 • He set NFL rookie records for most yards passing in the postseason (572), highest passer rating in the postseason (102.4) and most yards passing in a single game (385) while ranking second in most touchdown passes in a postseason (three).

Seattle quarterbacks coach Carl Smith said he noticed one important thing when watching Wilson’s college footage at Wisconsin before Seattle drafted him in the third round — he put points on the board.

“He is a great football player,” Smith said. “I didn’t know how that was going to transfer to a NFL quarterback. But you could see on tape that he made good decisions. ... He saw people and he got it to them. He moved the ball, and at Wisconsin they scored touchdowns when he was in the game.”

Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell helped scout Wilson. The two attended the same college (in 1994, Bevell quarterbacked the Badgers to their first Rose Bowl victory), so Bevell had a good handle on what Wilson could do before he arrived in Seattle.

Still, Wilson surprised him with how well he was able to adapt to the NFL.

“Very few times is he putting the ball in harm’s way, so he’s making good decisions,” Bevell said. “And because he has a real good understanding of what we’re doing, I think that helps as well.”

Heading into his second season — and with a season’s worth of notes to go through — Wilson is even better prepared, Bevell said.

“He’s such a different guy now,” Bevell said. “I think back then he was just trying to absorb everything that we were asking him to do, and we kind of took it slow with him in trying to give him the best chance to be successful.

“And now, this year, or even midway through last year, he really had a great grasp of what we were trying to get done. He’s able to do all the subtle things in the offense that we need him to do.

“He makes the appropriate checks when we need to get out of a bad play into a good play. In all of those things, he’s light years ahead of last year.”

Wilson is closely watching another NFL player as he continues to improve — New Orleans Saints signal caller Drew Brees.

The two developed a friendship during the Pro Bowl. Because of their similar size and athleticism, Wilson was favorably compared to Brees coming out of college. The two will get a chance to play against each other Dec. 2 when New Orleans travels to Seattle.

“The biggest thing that Drew does is he’s so poised,” Wilson said. “Even if he does make a mistake, he stays extremely poised, extremely competitive.”

Moon said he does not believe Wilson will experience a dip in play this season.

“He wants to be great,” Moon said. “And I think they’re going to be better around him, the team that he has. He knows them better, and all of these guys are at a stage in their career where they want to make that next step.

“The big thing he needs to do is not so much improve on the things he didn’t do so well last year,” Moon said. “It’s get better at the things he did do well, because that’s what defensive coordinators are going to try and take away. You can’t let them take away things that you do well. You just have to get better at the bread-and-butter plays, and no matter what you do, they can’t stop it.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@thenewstribune.com @eric_d_williams blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks

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