June 27, 2011
• Badger Breakdown with Lucas & Lepay
MADISON, Wis. -- Throughout the decision-making process, which entailed choosing between two sports (baseball and football) and two schools (Auburn and Wisconsin), Russell Wilson was never alone.
Wherever he went, whatever he thought, he carried the spirit and wisdom of his late father.
That included his recruiting visit to Madison in early June, when he was accompanied by his older brother, Harrison Benjamin Wilson IV, who lives in Chicago.
“My brother means the world to me,’’ Russell Wilson said. “With my dad passing away and all, he has been really close to me, so it was important to have him here.’’
Both boys were close to their dad, Harrison Benjamin Wilson III, who passed away one day after Russell had been taken in the fourth round of the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft by the Colorado Rockies.
Wilson, 55, had battled diabetes; a struggle that cost him part of his leg and left him vulnerable to a stroke in 2008, when Russell was a freshman at North Carolina State.
The elder Wilson played football at Dartmouth and practiced law in Richmond, Va. And it was not so much what he said as much as what he shared with Russell as a teen that is still impacting his life.
“He gave me this quote, ‘There’s a king in every crowd,’’’ Russell Wilson said.
That can mean so many different things to so many different people.
Spiritually, for Wilson, it’s a reminder that “wherever I go the Lord is with me.’’
From a competitive standpoint, Wilson translated, “You never know who’s watching, whether it’s a scout or a coach or a kid in the stands who wants to be just like you.’’
That has made it even more incumbent on Wilson to always do things the right way, even if perfection is unattainable. That’s how he was always pushed and prodded – physically and mentally.
Today, the scrutiny is just beginning anew for Russell Wilson on the heels of choosing football over baseball, for now, and Wisconsin over Auburn. What would his dad think?
“I think he’d be proud of me,’’ he said. “I’m blessed to be in the situation that I’m in.’’
Wilson doesn’t have any concerns over expectations, either.
“They already have high expectations,’’ he said of the Badgers.
“From my experience of playing big-time college football (in the ACC) and professional baseball (Class A), I really learned that you have to prepare mentally every single day.
“How you go about your business is really important, whether it’s on the field or off the field. I’m prepared to do all those things that are necessary to win and compete at the highest level.’’
How would Russell Wilson describe Russell Wilson to someone who has never seen him play?
“I’m relentless more than anything,’’ he said. “I always want to score as many touchdowns as I can. I want to do the right thing at the right time; I never waiver on that, whether in practice or a game.
“In terms of throwing ability, I believe I can make all the throws on the field. Making the right decisions and facilitating the ball to the right person at the right time is always important, too.
“If things aren’t going well, I want to be the guy to weather the storm and make sure everyone else on the field knows I’m going to keep competing and striving for the best.
“There’s never a day where you stop competing. That’s who I am – I’m a competitor.’’
Wilson set an NCAA record by attempting 379 straight passes without an interception. How critical to his success as a quarterback is having a positive touchdown-to-interception ratio?
“It’s imperative,’’ he said. “The quarterback has to be the leader of the team. He has to make smart decisions and when the game is on the line with two minutes left, the quarterback has to make a lot of big-time plays. That’s what I want to bring to the table.
“I want to be an experienced leader. I want to be a guy that never settles. You have to have the attitude of being the best on that particular play -- staying in the now, one play at a time.’’
That would be the equivalent of UW head coach Bret Bielema’s “1-and-0’’ mindset.
Wilson said that he meshed with Bielema because they have similar team and family goals. “With me joining a great team they already have, I think we can go a long way,’’ Wilson said.
He also felt a strong bond with UW offensive coordinator Paul Chryst.
“He has a great knowledge of the game,’’ Wilson said. “That’s what great offensive coordinators have -- they have the understanding of the X’s and O’s; at the same time, they want to learn, too.
“They want to understand what you do well (as a player) and what you can bring to the table. Coach Chryst talked to me about that and he thought I would be a great fit in the offense.’’
So what did it come down to: Football over baseball? Or, the Badgers over the Tigers?
“It was a little bit of both to be honest with you,’’ said Wilson, who implied that he left the Rockies organization in good standing, a “Rockie forever’’ in his own words.
“I had to figure out first if I should stick to baseball and should I give up that dream of playing in the NFL and hopefully winning a national championship and being part of something special.’’
Choosing between the UW and Auburn, the defending national champions, wasn’t easy. “I would have been in a great situation either way,’’ he said. “But I’m excited to be a Badger.’’
Wilson emphasized that there will always be a spot in his heart for North Carolina State. “I really do love NC State,’’ he said. “It will always be a part of me. That’s where I did graduate from.’’
In three years, no less. Wilson will attend grad school at Wisconsin. Business interests him.
Asked when he plans on getting to Madison, he said, “I’m going to get there as soon as possible, ASAP. I’m aiming for some point this weekend or the beginning of next week. That’s my goal.’’
How long will it take to absorb the UW playbook?
“I’m a quick learner,’’ he said.
In sum, Wilson pointed out that he did his “research’’ and the Badgers offered him the best fit; especially since the UW offensive system is very similar to what he ran at North Carolina State.
“That’s really important in terms of my future and football,’’ he said.
Equally important was the relationship with Bielema, Chryst and his new teammates. “Everyone was really welcoming from the staff to the players to the people in the community,’’ he said.
During the time that he was on campus, sampling the atmosphere, Wilson said, “I could just tell that everyone was in love with Wisconsin football. That’s important, because I’m in love with football.’’
Wilson is realistic about winning over the locker room when he gets here. “More than anything, it doesn’t just happen all at once; it doesn’t happen right away,’’ he said.
“I have to prove myself every day, and I’m ready to do that. I’m excited to get to know the players and show them how much Wisconsin football is going to mean to me.’’
The decision-making process drew to a close Saturday night when Wilson made up his mind after “a lot of prayer, critical thinking and evaluating of everything.’’
In the end, he said, “I just trusted in the Lord that he would lead me in the right direction, and this is the conclusion I came to and I’m excited to begin the race.’’
Russell Wilson is not guaranteeing a title, but he is promising this: “I always play with an edge and a fire. That’s because I’m a competitor. I always bring that fire. That’s the way I am.’’
That’s because you never know who’s watching.