Seattle Seahawks

It’s a wide, wild world for Wilson

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson stands on the field during a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson stands on the field during a preseason NFL football game against the Dallas Cowboys, Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016, in Seattle. AP

Where isn’t Russell Wilson these days?

Here’s the Seahawks quarterback pirouetting twice, his back turned to the line of scrimmage, then firing a touchdown pass and pumping his fist in a preseason game in Seattle.

There’s Wilson getting married to R&B singer Ciara at an 18th-century castle in the English countryside — with R&B/funk band Earth, Wind & Fire playing at the reception.

Here is Wilson leaping and turning for a hip bump with receiver Doug Baldwin to celebrate a long pass and catch in practice.

There he is, multiple times, as President Barack Obama’s guest at the White House for state dinners. And at the Grammy Awards. And the ESPYs. And at Fashion Week in Paris. And hosting Nickelodeon television’s Kids’ Choice Awards again.

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He’s also on walls of airports and sides of buses as Alaska Airlines’ “Chief Football Officer.” He’s on national airwaves pitching Microsoft, American Family Insurance, Bose and Braun; he makes an estimated $6 million annually in endorsements. His multiple philanthropic interests include visits to Seattle Children’s hospital every Tuesday. He tours its cancer and surgical wards for surprise, bedside visits.

One week, he’s using his press conference to call on our society to be better in social equality.

The next, he’s stating his belief that “Jesus loves all people.” That was after Wilson was asked about moving his wedding out of North Carolina because of that state’s restrictive, controversial transgender laws.

“It’s a big world they have,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson and Ciara. “And they’re dealing with it extremely well.”

Indeed, Wilson’s world is huge.

Wilson is the centerpiece of Seattle’s offense. Last season he became the first in Seahawks history to throw for 4,000 yards. And because of his football fame, he has become Seattle’s biggest pop-culture athlete with the most cross-societal appeal beyond sports since Ken Griffey Jr.

One could argue, comparing both in their primes, Wilson exceeds Griffey nationally. The NFL is more widely popular than Major League Baseball was in the 1990s. Unlike Griffey, Wilson has already become a fixture on his sport’s biggest stage, the postseason. And Wilson plays the most recognizable and credit/blame position in sports.

'I think I stay motivated the more busy I am'

Seahawks QB Russell Wilson talks about his busy offseason as camp gets under way in July.

Gregg Bell


With Wilson everywhere, is he still where he ultimately must be, on the football field? Is he fully engaged in leading the franchise in 2016 to its third Super Bowl in four years?

Or is it all too much for Wilson — who the Seahawks are paying $87.6 million over the next four seasons to play quarterback — to stay focused on the job that has given him the entrée to do all he does? How is he handling all this?

“Phenomenally,” said Richard Sherman, the Seahawks’ three-time All-Pro cornerback.

“He’s handled it like a professional. He hasn’t let it influence his job or his game, at all. He’s come out every day, done his job, worked hard. He’s not distracted from anything at all, that we can see.

“People are going to say what they are going to say. But, obviously, he threw for the most yards, the most touchdowns (last season). His play speaks for itself.”

Wilson says he has no secret in staying busy yet focused. It’s just ingrained in him.

“For me it’s just simplifying my life,” he said. “Just simplifying my life as much as I can. Being organized as much as I possibly can.

“When I was coming out (of college), I was playing two sports and taking 18 credits every semester,” the former Wisconsin quarterback and Class-A second baseman said. “I’m used to be being busy. That’s just who I am. That’s how I’ve always been.”

Wilson says his focus is “just keeping the main things in my life. The main things — which is God first, obviously my family, then football. In that order.”

He’s 27, with the perspective and life experiences of a 64-year-old.

Speaking of 64-year-olds, what’s Carroll think of how his quarterback has handled his schedule?

Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson smiles as he speaks with media members in May after practice in Renton. Elaine Thompson AP

“He’s been exactly the same. All that he’s been is better,” the coach said. “He’s just been clearer. We’ve communicated on a higher level based on the years and experience. Our conversations are more on it. I see nothing but better.

“He had a great offseason and with getting married and all that stuff, he’s dealt with it beautifully and handled it. His workouts and his conditioning, his arm strength, everything is really there, and his focus has been exquisite. I have no problem.”

On the day after the Seahawks’ playoff run ended on Jan. 17 with a 31-24 loss at Carolina in the NFC divisional round, Carroll said he wanted to explore the next step in Wilson’s football evolution. The coach said he wanted to go “to school” with the quarterback.

“He and I will spend a lot of time this offseason introducing him to the perspective of what it’s like to look at the defense from the defensive side of the ball,” Carroll said back in January.

“I want him to learn and understand what’s going on schematically, rotation-wise, fits-wise, even more than he knows now.”

But in mid-June, Carroll said “we (didn’t get) done as much as I thought we would do.”

So there is such thing as too much to do and not enough time to do it all. Yet for Wilson, busy is best.

“I don’t know if there’s such a word as ‘too much,’ doing too much or being too busy,” he said. “I really know my time management. The biggest thing in terms of all that is that I’m able to get my workout in. You know, did I get my (physical training) work? Was I able to throw today or do something football oriented, at least 30 minutes of watching film at least, of looking at the plays?”

That’s his offseason. During the season, Wilson says he strives to “continue to keep my mind rolling on plays, continue to keep my mind on how we can do things better, how I can do better and continue to keep that motivation there.”

“I don’t think winning happens by accident,” he said.

Carroll admits he had some uncertainty with how Wilson would continue that hard work with all he was doing this past offseason. But the coach said he wasn’t concerned seeing Wilson in London and Paris just before training camp.

“Well, he got married over there,” Carroll deadpanned.

“Anytime a guy gets married, you never know. But they’re a great couple and they’ve handled it beautifully.”

Similarly, Sherman said he, along with other teammates, isn’t concerned about Wilson losing his football edge while he and Ciara were checking out the glamorous spots of Europe.

“No. No. Because I know what the offseason is. The offseason is our time off,” Sherman said. “I’m not worried about him. He didn’t miss an (Organized Team Activity). He didn’t miss a minicamp. The time he was supposed to be here, he was here. This wasn’t the bye week of a playoff game with him just on vacation.

“He’s done a great job with it all.”

Russell Wilson and Ciara Harris were married July 6 at an 18th-century castle in Chesire, England. Courtesy PR NEWSWIRE


Wilson credits his support group for keeping him organized and focused. It’s a small, tightly-knit club.

Wilson’s inner circle officially grew by two this summer: Ciara and her 2-year-old son Future Zahir Wilburn. Yet its core remains: Mark Rodgers, the agent who navigated Wilson’s move from baseball to the NFL and the richest contract in Seahawks’ history last summer; Rodgers’ son Matt, the quarterback’s personal assistant; and Wilson’s best friends Scott Pickett, who he’s known since kindergarten, and fellow childhood buddy Casey Wadkins.

But the two who remain the biggest influences on Wilson’s life are Harrison and Tammy Wilson.

The late Harrison Wilson III graduated from Dartmouth College and then the University of Virginia’s School of Law. After that, Wilson’s father briefly tried out with the San Diego Chargers as a receiver. He got released at the end of that preseason.

He eventually settled his family, which also includes Russell’s brother Harry and his sister Anna, in Richmond, Virginia. That’s where the quarterback attended The Collegiate School, a high-class prep school.

Russell was a standout at North Carolina State and then, when the Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien didn’t like him taking spring off from football to play baseball, at Wisconsin. Wilson led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl in his only season there.

His mother was an emergency-room nurse. So, yes, hard work with scant idle time was all over the Wilson household.

That’s why Wilson has a quick, personal answer when asked about the origins of his work ethic, about his need to be constantly doing — and standing for — something.

“It’s a big world they have,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson and Ciara. “And they’re dealing with it extremely well.” Tony Avelar AP

“It comes from my parents, both my mom and my dad,” he said. “It was never easy for us. My dad was a lawyer. My mom was a nurse who worked in the ER who was up late at night, at times. I remember that as a little kid there were times when even my dad had to work two jobs.

“Also, my parents instilled the idea of giving back. That’s just innately in me because both my parents have always done that. I’ve always seen that. I’m grateful for them. … Some people won’t ever understand that, but for me that’s just the truth of where I’m motivated from.”

His parents are what was behind Wilson starting his Why Not You Foundation in 2014 to, as the charity’s mission statement says, “empower change in the world, one individual at a time, and one child at a time.”

His folks were behind him staying on the field last month following warmups before Seattle’s preseason game against Dallas. Wilson presented a check to Seattle Children’s for $1 million. He and NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne from Enumclaw partnered with Safeway to raise the money for the hospital’s third annual Strong Against Cancer campaign.

And Wilson’s parents were the basis for the passion with which Wilson spoke after that exhibition game. Instead of going on about his sharp, 16-for-21 passing night with two touchdowns in the final warmup for this regular season, Wilson went on about the following in his postgame press conference:

“Just being able to donate over a million dollars for childhood cancer, and it’s really working. We had ‘The Drive’ up in Suncadia, a big celebrity golf tournament. We had a lot of fun up there. And I remember Dr. Mike Jensen (a director of cancer research at Seattle Children’s Research Institute) who has really spearheaded everything, a great, great guy, very smart obviously. I remember him saying on stage that (T-cell cancer treatment) has a 93-percent success rate.

“It’s an amazing thing, a 93-percent success rate out of (a study’s 42) kids. That’s just an amazing thing to be able to save kids’ lives. We were able donate over $1 million, which really gives me the chills, because that’s what life’s really all about — us being able to give back and donate.”

Wilson described how doctors told his family when his father was in a coma in 2007 that he had maybe 12 hours to live. Russell’s mother then held her husband’s hand at his bedside and sang to him. Upon hearing his wife’s voice, Harrison Wilson began moving his hands and feet. Eventually, he awakened — and lived for three more years.

“I believe in miracles,” Wilson said. “I’ve seen it happen.”

Dad saw Russell play for North Carolina State before he died in 2010 of complications from diabetes.

“In short, I think that in terms of my parents, they always encouraged rather than discouraged, and that was a big thing for me,” Wilson said. “I’m grateful for my parents in that way because they always encouraged me to do more, they always encouraged me: ‘Hey, you can do that!’

“I’m a big believer in that.”

Russell Wilson is 46-18 as a starting quarterback in the regular season in his first four years. Joshua Bessex


Despite all Wilson believes in and does outside of football, he says he has things he wants to improve on.

“I want to be a master of (pass) protection,” he says, meaning pre-snap reads and deep understanding of defenses.

Carroll stresses Wilson is sharper than ever on the field.

“He’s made a clear step ahead. His command is like, all-time,” Carroll said. “His ability to move defenders with his eyes to set up some things — he’s consistently doing that. Almost unconsciously, he’s so clued in.”

Better than he’s already been would be hard to imagine.

By comparison, Wilson was better statistically than Tom Brady in his first four seasons in the NFL. Wilson is the first quarterback to start two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. Brady didn’t do that — and he’s now the 39-year-old, sure-Hall-of-Fame quarterback for the New England Patriots, a four-time Super Bowl champion.

Wilson is 46-18 in the regular season in his first four years. Brady was 34-12; he didn’t start until Drew Bledsoe got hurt weeks into the Patriots’ 2001 season.

Wilson’s career completion rate is 64.7 percent. Brady’s for his first four seasons was 61.8. Wilson has 106 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions. Brady had just 69 TD throws against 38 INTs through four years.

Bigger than all those numbers, Wilson will forever be the quarterback that won the Pacific Northwest its first Super Bowl title three seasons ago. He has been the leader of the greatest sustained run of success in the Seahawks’ 41 years.

And Las Vegas oddsmakers list Seattle with New England and Green Bay as this season’s favorites to win Super Bowl 51 in Houston in February.

So yes, Wilson feels justified that all he does off the field does not distract him from what he must do on it.

“Ultimately it comes back to, it’s worth it all,” Wilson said. “For me, it’s worth it all.

“The more things you have on your table, the more motivated you become.”

Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle

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