There are those few for whom everything changes as soon as they enter a room. The culture changes, the commitment to excellence changes, the expectations of every man in the dressing room and every fan outside change.
Russell Wilson is one of the few.
More recently, Tom Brady not only raised the Buccaneerss, but the entire city of Tampa after escaping the clutches of Bill Belichick and riding in on his white horse.
Peyton Manning not only lifted the Broncos, but the entire city of Denver to a Rocky Mountain high after the Colts decided to pass their torch to Andrew Luck.
Wilson has spent his life accepting challenges and ignoring naysayers, and he dared to be great. On Monday night, the sight of him wearing the No. 3 for the Broncos in a noisy blast furnace called Lumen Field in Seattle will be harrowing, but that shouldn’t stop fans wearing Seahawks ’12s’ from celebrating, who Wilson was for quite a decade and what he had accomplished for the team and for the city of Seattle before simmering, irreconcilable differences brewed that led to the earthquake of a March divorce from Pete Carroll.
Carroll didn’t let Russ cook enough, and now he’s staying in the kitchen with Geno Smith. Since Manning retired after Super Bowl 50, a string of Denver quarterbacks have fallen from what was largely a stubborn, sucking Bronco: from Paxton Lynch to Trevor Siemien and Brock Osweiler to Case Keenum, Joe Flacco, Drew Lock and Teddy Bridgewater made the playoffs every year. Rookie Broncos coach Nathaniel Hackett lets Russ Cook cook.
“There were times when he told me, tell [Quandre] Diggs, say it [Jamal] Adams said, “Go get me the ball back,” former Seahawk DJ Reed told Serby Says in the Jets locker room. “I’ll be intercepted, Diggs will be intercepted or Jamal forced a fumble, whatever the case, he’s going to come back and score and he’s going to get to the touchline and be like, ‘I told you so! Keep feeding me, keep feeding me.’ This is a quarterback you want to play with like he’s playing to win.
“That makes you go on defense and get a turnover because you know he’s going to try to score.”
Reed has played with Wilson for the past two seasons.
“When he broke his finger playing the Rams,” Reed said, “it was a throwing finger. He came back about half the games he was supposed to play, but every day he had this little handgrip thing, he always grabs it during our team briefings. He had like a small hand rest to throw the ball. You can tell he’s literally addicted to football. Like guys like Tom Brady, he’s just one of those guys who’s addicted to football.”
Addicted to winning and a legacy of winning. He’s a man on a mission to win multiple Super Bowls to expand his Super Bowl XLVIII championship, even if he also has to pursue Lombardi Trophies into his 40s. Wilson turns 34 in November, and it’s foolish to think he can give the Broncos enough for their $245 million by the end of his contract in 2028…but you can bet he’ll sure damn try.
“You’re never out of the game with him,” former Seahawk George Fant told Serby Says in the Jets dressing room.
Jets defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich, who was with Atlanta from 2015-20, knows that.
“He just influences people because his obsession with the game is on another level,” Ulbrich told Serby Says, “and he’s a guy who holds people accountable and brings them along and provides such an amazing model for how.” it can look like. So yes, he will raise the entire building.
“I’ve played him many times now and it’s only been good for me a couple of times. He has that rare ability to turn a team on its back and do his best at critical moments and that’s why he’s so successful.”
Wilson reeks of success, on and off the football field. He and Ciara form the most harmonious power couple in the NFL today. He told CNBC in 2020 that he spends at least $1 million a year on his mind and body.
“One of the things he would say whenever I was there,” Fant said, “was just like, ‘All right, next piece.’ As if it didn’t matter what happened before the play, he was always worried about the next play.”
Wilson’s 113 wins are the most in NFL history in a player’s first 10 seasons. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that his idol, a gifted baseball player with dual-sport aspirations, was Derek Jeter.
“God brought me here for a reason,” Wilson said after he and the Seahawks won Super Bowl XLVIII against the Broncos, “and I appreciate that for the African American community. I appreciate it for all the kids who were told no, they can’t do anything, whether you’re white, black, Asian, or Hispanic. … I personally appreciate it because I 5-[foot]-11. Everyone told me I couldn’t do it.”
Wilson was only a third-round draft pick from Wisconsin because he was 5-11. Except that he showed up to his first training camp as a 5-11 package of smarts, moxie, dodge and soccer IQ and promptly beat esteemed free agent Matt Flynn for the starting job.
“I’m just trying to relax as much as possible — relax, just play football,” Wilson said at the time. “I’m preparing in every way I can. I’ll be there early, I’ll leave late. I always try to mentally prepare and visualize myself to be successful.”
Now he imagines it all as a Bronco. Interviews that forever ended with “Go ‘Hawks” now end with “Broncos Country. Let’s ride.” Since the deal, he’s been cruising the country road, dodging potholes disguised as questions about what both sides knew and when both sides knew.
“I gave everything I had,” Wilson said. “I enjoyed every second of it.”
He dreamed of being a Seahawk, just a Seahawk, and those who know him as a proud man and fierce competitor expect him to see revenge as a dish best served cold, you bet not for public consumption. For his part, Carroll has tried to bring the temperature down.
“It took a long time,” he said on Thursday. “It’s not like we just changed uniforms last week.”
A freed, unbound, and highly motivated DangeRuss, surrounded by guns and a better offensive line than he’s had in years, could allow him to earn his first-ever MVP pick and lead the MVP race.
“I’d be surprised if he got any boos and stuff like that…that would surprise me if the Seattle fans did that,” Reed said.
From the Associated Press on the night Brady, a 20-year Patriot, returned to Gillette Stadium with his six rings as a buc last October: “Brady was greeted with cheers during the pregame before leading the field to a torrent of boos entered the Buccaneers. first ride of the night.”
Von Brady after beating Bill Belichick and the Patriots, 19-17: “This has been my home for 20 years, my kids were born here. It’s just a great city, great city, great area. i love it up here I have so many people that I relate to. But this was about this team coming here to win. It wasn’t about a player.”
But for so many it was. And it will be again for so many, for so many sleepless people in Seattle as the hours tick down until Monday night. Seahawks receiver Tyler Lockett has begged the 12ers to cheer for Wilson.
“You’re not really going to boo him out there. You will show him love,” Fant said.
It’s okay to boo the Bronco. But cheer for the man.