Wilson blazing a trail from sea to shining Sea

State to Wisconsin to Seattle, where Seahawks look to knock off Atlanta Falcons in NFC Divisional Playoffs Wilson blazing a trail from sea to shining Sea.

BY Kevin Armstrong


Updated: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 7:13 PM

facebook email Russell Wilson wins the starting job in the preseason and throws 26 touchdowns against 10 interceptions in his rookie season in Seattle.cheap nfl jerseys He leads the Seahawks against the Falcons on Sunday in Atlanta. (Kevin Casey/Getty Images)

BY Kevin Armstrong


Updated: Saturday, January 12, 2013, 7:13 PM

RICHMOND, Va. In the predawn darkness of Feb. 2, 2005, Alex Peavey, coach of the Collegiate School boys basketball team, drove his Nissan Xterra down North Mooreland Road toward the campus. workout with Peavey. The coach obliged. As he approached the grounds, his headlights flashed on a solitary figure in a gray hooded sweatshirt with a green jersey over it. A yellow No. 11 reflected in the lights. Wilson, who lived two miles from school, was running along the shoulder, dribbling a basketball.

“I knew not to pick him up,” Peavey says. “He would have been pissed.”


Peavey pulled into his parking spot and walked to the gym door. There was a book bag on the front step. Wilson’s father, Harrison III, a well respected lawyer in town, had dropped it off before continuing to work. Minutes later, when Wilson, who had run the two miles from his house, arrived, he motioned to begin the workout immediately.

“I was like, ‘OK, you’re different,'” Peavey says.

Wilson’s worn out all comers in all corners of the country. From recording 22 rebounds in a single game to running 12 straight quarterback draws to hitting four inside the park home runs in a Little League contest, Wilson, once a fireball burning through local competition, continues his ascent with uncommon poise. Instinctual from the start, he’s steered Seattle into Sunday’s divisional playoff meeting with Atlanta, strafing defenses with his arm and outlasting all rookie quarterbacks from a celebrated class with his legs.

“There’s no time to sleep,” Wilson says.

Life’s a pep rally to Wilson. Once senior class president at Collegiate, his endless campaigns have led him to dusty minor league dugouts, Pasadena’s Rose Bowl and now the biggest stage yet, the NFL playoffs where veterans listen carefully for his cadence.

“He could run for governor in North Carolina, Wisconsin or Washington and win,” Wilson’s brother, Harry, says.

His earliest calculations centered around figuring whether the outfielders could find the cut off man at the Tuckahoe (Va.) Little League field. Wilson, then a shortstop, never stayed at first base, forever speeding to second, to third, to home. He liked his coaches to double as windmills, waving him on all the while. From behind the outfield fence, his brother, Harry, six years his elder, placed $5 wagers with his friend, Jeff Dunnington.

“All line drives and grounders,” Dunnington says. “He wasn’t going to stop.”

His father gave Wilson a determined gait. Wilson also inherited Harrison’s strong, meaty hands and rough hair. They shared stubborn streaks, the elder instilling discipline at all hours, insisting Russell’s eyes lock with anyone else’s upon introduction; feet were to be lifted, not shuffled. Trouble at school? Ring the doorbell at the headmaster’s house nearby and apologize for demerits. When they drove to the University of Richmond to run, his father excitedly addressed Russell’s friends in the back seat. He turned back, his foot on the gas. Russell, riding shotgun, took the wheel.

“When I see Russell I literally see my father,” Harry says.

Harrison III knew the path well. Born in Jackson, Miss., he negotiated the education systems to gain a degree from Dartmouth, where he excelled at wideout. The learning extended to the University of Virginia’s law school, where he picked up a law degree and met his wife, Tammy, an undergraduate at the time. Athletics never left him.

He jogged the university’s grounds in Army boots and wrapped himself in plastic bags beneath a sweatshirt. Some days he wore a weighted vest. He passed all mettle tests to earn a tryout with the San Diego Chargers, knifing his way up field until the final cuts.

Wilson blazed his own trail. Collegiate, a tony, co ed school that runs K through 12, offered him an elite education. An African American on a campus that was 90 percent white, Wilson meshed well, attracting attention both for his polish and athletic exploits. Football offered the largest stage to be a leader and he quarterbacked three state title winners, but the toughest mettle examination came last. Against Fork Union Military Academy in the 2006 championship, offensive coordinator Mark Palyo recognized his counterpart’s man free scheme.

He did, totaling 12 draws by the end, but it was all fly patterns from there. Wilson’s college career was a whirl between baseball and football. State because coach Chuck Amato allowed him to pursue both sports, but Amato was fired before Wilson ever made it to campus. In came Tom O’Brien, and Wilson performed well for him, but O’Brien wanted Wilson playing football in the spring. Wilson demurred, staying with baseball. In June 2010, he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies. His father, debilitated by diabetes and a stroke, died the next day.

Russell maintained a stiff lip. There was work to be done. He could blaze around the basepaths, but his bat wasn’t quick enough to catch good wood on fastballs. Still, he worked, but O’Brien and Wilson butted heads when the football coach wanted him full time after three years. When Wilson refused after the 2011 season, O’Brien made clear that Mike Glennon would be the starter. Wilson had already graduated in three years, and had one more season of eligibility left. Wilson became a free agent. Then Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema pursued him. He sent offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who had never met Wilson, to Richmond to talk with Collegiate coach Charlie McFall and Palyo.

“The beauty of Russell is his consistency,” says Chryst, now head coach at Pittsburgh. “Same then, same now; always paying attention.”