Super Bowl 48  

 

Russell Wilson's fortitude lifted Seattle Seahawks to Super Bowl

Russell Wilson: Smart, good decision-maker with good arm strength. Takes good care of the ball. Athletic and uses his legs to buy time and extend plays downfield. You have to be disciplined with your rush lanes playing him. Use his lack of height against him. Keep him in the pocket and get your hands up at the line of scrimmage to limit his vision. Most of their big plays come when he's outside of the pocket.

-- Abbreviated scouting report on the Seahawks QB from an NFC opponent's personnel executive.

JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- For most of the nearly five-hour flight from Seattle to Newark Liberty International Airport, Russell Wilson did what he does: break down video clips of his Seahawks offense and of opponents' defenses. Situational football, mainly; third-and-whatever, from whichever area of the field, at varying parts of the game.


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Super Bowl coverage:
» 'Hawks stomp Broncos in SBXLVIII | Smith is MVP
» Manning falls flat on big stage | No-so Super night
» Manning running out of time | 'Not embarrassing'
» 'Hawks' dominant D new normal | Why effective?
» 'Best defense since '85 Bears'? | D sets tone
» 'Hawks savor the moment | Carroll's a.m. rounds
» Harvin saves his best for last | Intimidation factor?
» Broncos center takes responsibility for safety
» Lynch dances with himself in locker room | Watch
» Namath's coin flip gets picked by ref | Name it

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» Game highlights | Trophy presentation | Remix
» Highlights: Seahawks D | Harvin | Wilson | Sherman
» Safety first | Pick six | Harvin's return | Kearse TD

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Yes, he was getting ready to face the Denver Broncos -- led by arguably the best quarterback ever in Peyton Manning -- in Super Bowl XLVIII, but this is exactly what Wilson, in just his second NFL season, would do even if he were at home prepping for Madden NFL 25.

"Until I met Russell, I've never seen anyone prepare like Brett Favre," said Wilson's Super Bowl ringer, wide receiver Percy Harvin, who played with Favre in Minnesota and who, having been held back by injury issues, will be suiting up on Sunday for just the third time this season.

"It was like 6 a.m. before the offseason program had even started, and he was watching film," Harvin added. "The way he prepares is like no other."

All quarterbacks worth anything have an unbridled work ethic; film study and repetition, leadership and respect from teammates are part of the daily lifestyle. However, what Wilson has that a lot of others -- like Manning, Tom Brady, or even his idol, Drew Brees -- don't is a rapidly growing book on how to stop him.

We're well-versed in the fact that Wilson has not thrown for more than 300 yards since a Dec. 2 pasting of the New Orleans Saints, and that he has, in fact, topped 200 yards in just two of his past six games. But that's due as much to the low attempts totals (27 or fewer in each of those six contests) that come with operating in Seattle's run-first offense as it is to Wilson missing on more throws than he did earlier in the season.

What's gone overshadowed is that Wilson has been sacked 21 times in that same span, including seven times in the playoffs and four times in four separate contests. Defenses are coming up with ways to reach the elusive Wilson and knock him off his game.

"If Denver can get their two interior guys to press the pocket (that's got containment by outside rushers), it can be a long day," the NFC personnel executive said.

Even so, we shouldn't forget that Wilson (26 touchdowns, nine interceptions in the regular season) has made enough plays -- and timely ones, at that -- to get his team to Super Bowl XLVIII. Players like Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Eli Manning, Joe Flacco, Matt Ryan and Colin Kaepernick wish they could be in his place.

"I've never seen someone with such a will to be great," Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said of Wilson.

The attention to every detail and the concern Wilson shows about everything is almost extreme. When I asked Robinson, a respected Seahawks veteran, if he ever wonders whether Wilson is too immersed, Robinson unleashed this haymaker: "Is Peyton?"

The constant search for greatness is innate in Wilson, his teammates say. He grew up in Richmond, Va., as a football and baseball star, following in the steps of his late father, Harrison Wilson III, who got a tryout with the San Diego Chargers after a standout football and baseball career at Dartmouth.

Wilson often credits his father, who passed away in 2010 because of complications from diabetes, for making sure that he looked the part and carried himself a certain way -- and for teaching him the lesson that there is no such thing as knowing enough or working too hard.

Wilson won the starting quarterback job early at North Carolina State, then transferred to Wisconsin following his third year after N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien disagreed with Wilson's decision to play minor-league baseball for the Colorado Rockies, who drafted him in 2010.

The quarterback -- who graduated from N.C. State in three years with a communications degree -- immediately snared the top spot at Wisconsin after learning the offense at breakneck speed.

While Wilson's quick success at each level might not have been surprising to him, it was to everyone else, especially those who keep wondering when he'll stop shattering the mold of the prototypical quarterback -- which, you know, isn't 5-foot-11 and built like a stout running back.

In the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson lasted until the third round, when Seattle, as coach Pete Carroll insists, followed the prodding of general manager John Schneider and selected Wilson with the 75th overall pick.

Why was a proven winner with a huge arm, massive hands and running ability still available?

His height was the issue.

"It's kind of silly that it had to happen this way, because the right thing is to get the best players out there to play, and whatever the results show, that basis is the basis for your opinions of guys," Carroll said of Wilson. "I'm really grateful that we've figured that out with Russell. He just kept being Russell, and he showed us what he was all about."

The Seahawks are a team filled with mutts: hungry players who were drafted in the lower rounds (if they were drafted at all), along with free-agent castoffs from other squads playing with bared fangs to prove so many wrong. Cornerback Richard Sherman barks that bark to get his days started.

Wilson, though, is a bit different.

"There's no chip on his shoulder for being too small or being overlooked," wideout Doug Baldwin said. "There is a deep-rooted emotion, something that's personal and is a part of him, for the way he plays football and the way he prepares."

Wilson knows he has to always stay ahead of defenses and be ready when things don't work. His composure has regularly come into play during the Seahawks' Super Bowl run, as when he made up for an early fumble with a scrambling 51-yard pass to Baldwin that led to Seattle's first points -- a second-quarter field goal -- in the team's bid to unseat the reigning NFC champion 49ers. Or consider the way he found Jermaine Kearse with a 35-yard scoring strike on fourth-and-7 in the fourth quarter to give the 'Hawks a 20-17 lead over San Francisco.

The book on how to stop Russell Wilson can and will continue to be written. But he wants to make sure that he has the last word.

"I believe in my talent," he said. "I believe in everything that I've been given. I expect to play at a high level, and I expect to be fighting for a Super Bowl every year. I put all the hard work in, and I expect great things when I put the hard work in. Like I always say, the separation is in the preparation."

Follow Steve Wyche on Twitter @wyche89.

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