Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was selected in the third round of… (Byline Withheld / Associated…)
NEW YORK — Russell Wilson sat quietly at his Seattle Seahawks locker before a recent practice, and carefully used a felt-tip marker to write a word on his taped wrist.
In block letters: POISE.
Evidently, even he needs a reminder, although in his second season and on the verge of the second Super Bowl in Seahawks history, Wilson is more poised than NFL quarterbacks far older and more experienced.
In fact, he might wear reminders on his wrist, but Wilson does not wear his heart on his sleeve. Teammates teased him after Seattle beat Green Bay with a controversial Hail Mary pass last season, because his facial expression never changed in the wild celebration that followed. Throughout, he had that same cool, sleepy-eyed look, as if he had made those plays forever.
Wilson telling himself to be poised is like Usain Bolt telling himself to be fast. It just happens.
"He's chasing greatness," Seattle receiver Golden Tate said of Wilson. "That's something that I feel is contagious. Guys see that."
If the Seahawks have their way in Super Bowl XLVIII, the Denver Broncos will be chasing Wilson too. He has the escape ability of Houdini, especially when he gets outside the pocket, and almost always makes at least the first would-be tackler miss.
"He wants to get out to his right and throw; he's more successful that way," Broncos defensive tackle Terrance Knighton said. "So we've got to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket, and force him out of his comfort zone. When he's moving left, he'll tend to run it more, and when he's moving right, he wants to pass it more. We have to do a good job of containing him."
Wilson, generously listed at 5 feet 11 inches, can become the shortest starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, and his relatively diminutive size gave some people pause within the Seahawks organization during the 2012 draft. He was a third-round pick championed by General Manager John Schneider, who said he strongly considered taking him in the second. Of course, Wilson wound up being a first-round talent, and then some.
"For the other guys and all the guys who have played before him who didn't quite get the chance for that same type of [height] stigma, he has opened up the door," Seattle Coach Pete Carroll said. "It's exciting to see that that's happened because there are a lot of marvelous athletes, and we're seeing them right now
Carroll said Texas A&M Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Manziel "is an incredible athlete that might not have been considered as highly before Russell had all this success. 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's the basis for your opinions on guys."
The star quarterback in Sunday's game is Denver's Peyton Manning, a sure first-ballot Hall of Fame selection who set NFL records with 55 touchdowns and 5,477 passing yards this season. He's on track for his record sixth most-valuable-player award, and can further cement his spot in the pantheon of great quarterbacks with a second Lombardi Trophy.
But Wilson, whose playing style is markedly different, is Manning-like in his meticulous preparation and tireless work habits. He is 25, and Manning is 37, making theirs the largest quarterback age gap in Super Bowl history.
When Carroll has given players the day off after a win, a so-called "Victory Monday," Wilson famously demands offensive players come in anyway to work with him. It's not uncommon for Wilson to be at the facility at daybreak and, having finished his morning workout, be already watching game footage when coaches arrive.
Much as Wilson admires Manning, his longtime mentor is Drew Brees, the 6-foot quarterback of the New Orleans Saints.
"Drew Brees was a guy that I looked up to ever since my dad really told me about him, back when I was in middle school and high school," Wilson said. "'Hey, you have to watch this guy at Purdue.' When I went to college, and I got to N.C. State, I started watching film on him a little bit. And when I got to Wisconsin, that's when I really started watching him.
"I've read his book several times, and he's just a great inspiration. He's a guy that does things right."
Wilson said he and Brees have been in contact during the last week, with the Saints star giving him tips on how to best handle the Super Bowl experience.
After all, Brees won a Super Bowl four years ago. The quarterback vanquished on that day? Peyton Manning.