Russell Wilson: Beating the odds, inspiring dreams
“I know he’s going to be an NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, but he also might be the president of the United States. And I don’t think that’s an exaggeration. The kid has something that you cannot buy, you cannot bottle.” - former Wisconsin football head coach Bret Bielema on American Family Insurance brand ambassador Russell Wilson
At only age 25, Russell Wilson is already an incredible success story. Few achieve in their whole NFL careers what Wilson has accomplished in just his first two seasons. And for those of us who had the great fortune to witness his season as a Badger, none of it is a surprise.
I’ll never forget the day I first learned about Russell. His commitment to Wisconsin had just been announced that morning, and all the headlines were talking about this “free agent QB” who had utilized a loophole to transfer. I was skeptical. They made him sound like some sort of diva.
Boy was that wrong.
In Wilson’s debut against UNLV, I was blown away. As a Badger fan for more than a decade, I was used to the gritty, run-first offense that had come to define Wisconsin football. But Wilson displayed a style of play that combined electricity and finesse in a way I had never seen before. I was hooked. But what struck me most wasn’t the way he completed passes or evaded defenders; it was his demeanor. Not once did he celebrate after a positive play or show frustration after a negative one. He never wavered.
“I refer to him as almost a perfect person. He doesn’t make mistakes. He’s always doing everything right.” - Wilson’s Seahawks teammate Golden Tate
I began listening to his interviews. The humility, poise, and charisma he displayed was characteristic of a born leader. I read quotes from his old coaches and teammates, who raved about his work ethic and hours spent preparing. By the time his season at Wisconsin came to an end, he had become one of my biggest role models. His favorite mantra – “the separation is in the preparation” – has inspired me in the pursuit of my own goals.
Sometimes I wondered if it was too good to be true. I figured eventually Wilson would slip up or display the inevitable character flaw. Years later and I’m still waiting. I wasn’t the only one with doubts though:
“When we first had the chance to talk and visit, you come away from it thinking ‘is this too good to be true?’ He’s so serious, and he’s so determined, and he’s so polite, and so attentive, and so tuned in, you just wonder what a good show this guy puts on. But...the more we were around him, the more we realized that this is just who he is. He’s a remarkable young man.” - Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll on meeting Wilson
Every once in a while someone comes along who transcends expectations against all odds to become an inspiration for the rest of us. Russell Wilson is one of those people. While he continues to show the same magic on the football field in Seattle that he showed us in Madison, the truth is that his work ethic and unbelievable character make it’s easy to imagine Wilson being successful no matter what career path he chooses.
“He’s one of those guys that you want to root for, and you’re happy for any type of success that comes his way.” - New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees
Editor's note: American Family Insurance proudly supports the Russell Wilson Passing Academy. The camp is coming to six communities in summer 2014. For more information visit the camp website. And remember to join us as we count down the days until American Family Insurance brand ambassador, Russell Wilson, is in the big game. Join the conversation on Twitterand Facebook.