x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Russell Wilson readying himself for the Super Bowl since last season

Considered too short to thrive as a quarterback, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has proved doubters wrong all the way to the pinnacle of his sport – the Super Bowl.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was part of the media contingent at last year's Super Bowl. He says that experience has helped him understand the
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was part of the media contingent at last year's Super Bowl. He says that experience has helped him understand the "rhythm" of the event. JASON SZENES / EPA

NEW YORK // Considered too short to thrive as a quarterback, Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks has proved doubters wrong all the way to the pinnacle of his sport – the Super Bowl.

Wilson fought his way to a starting role in high school and college but slipped to the third round of the 2012 NFL draft as evaluators decided the 5ft 9ins-tall signal caller would not be a big-time player in the pro ranks.

Two seasons and two Pro Bowl selections later and Wilson will tackle his biggest challenge yet in a Super Bowl duel against Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos on Sunday night.

A gifted athlete who pondered a baseball career and played two seasons as a minor league second baseman for the Colorado Rockies, Wilson has used his strong arm and quick footwork to set an NFL record for most wins by a quarterback in his first two seasons.

Wilson grew up in Virginia in an athletically-gifted family that placed a premium on education and became a quarterback almost by default.

His father played two sports at Dartmouth College, went to law school at the University of Virginia and nearly made the San Diego Chargers as a receiver after graduating.

Wilson’s older brother became a college receiver, and that made young Russell the quarterback in family practice sessions and the pint-sized boy developed a powerful arm.

Talent merged with planning, thought and preparation for Wilson, whose grandfather was a multi-sport athlete in college and became president at Norfolk State University for 22 years, and he became a winner at every level.

He won three state championships in high school, went to North Carolina State where he was fifth on the pecking list at quarterback but wound up the starter by the opening game.

Released from his scholarship three years later after declining to quit pro baseball, he went to the University of Wisconsin and led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl in his only season.

After being taken 75th overall in the NFL draft, the sixth quarterback selected, he beat out newly-signed veteran Matt Flynn to become the starting quarterback and as a rookie led Seattle into the play-offs with their first winning season in five years.

Wilson, dwarfed in the 2012 draft by the top two picks of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, has succeeded by using his quickness to find lanes between giant pass rushers to make his throws, and his elusiveness to buy time with scrambles while his receivers move into open space.

The young quarterback, who once attended one of Manning’s youth camps for promising passers, found a role model in Drew Brees, a smallish quarterback who won a Super Bowl with the New Orleans Saints in 2010.

“Drew Brees was a guy that I looked up to ever since my dad told me about him back when I was in middle school and high school, [saying] ‘Hey you have to watch this guy at Purdue’.”

“When I went to Wisconsin, that’s when I really started watching him. I watched every single throw that he made the year before in the National Football League, just studying his craft, studying his game.”

“I’ve read his book several times, and he’s just great inspiration. He’s a guy that does things right, a guy that is a great leader and he’s so poised in big situations.”

Wilson said he reached out to Brees last week to talk to him about what Super Bowl week is like.

The Seattle quarterback is tireless in pursuit of an edge – that was demonstrated when the college communications major accepted some broadcasting work at the Super Bowl last year after the Seahawks were eliminated in the play-offs.

“My main objective was to get prepared for this situation,” he said. “That was a big day for me to able to scout, just to be able to watch. I was there four and half hours before the game, just watching the rhythm of the day, the rhythm of pre-game ... The best way to be sure that you’re ready for this moment is to prepare the right way.”

That is a fact not lost on Pete Carroll, the Seattle coach.

“We’ve never seen anything from Russell that wasn’t consistent,” Carroll said. “Direction, support, mindset, character, work habits – he’s never changed at all. He’s been so rock-solid consistent. He’s ready for this opportunity.

“He’s been readying himself throughout his playing career in all sports. He’s got a great savvy about him and I think he’s going to continue to show that.”

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