A year ago, Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was in New Orleans for Super Bowl XLVII.
Unfortunately for the Seahawks and their fans, none of Wilson’s teammates joined him. The Super Bowl was played just three weeks after Seattle’s season ended with a disappointing 30-28 playoff loss to the Atlanta Falcons.
But Wilson was more than an ordinary spectator at the Feb. 3, 2013, game between the San Francisco 49ers and the Baltimore Ravens. Convinced that the Seahawks were on the verge of reaching the NFL title game, Wilson wanted a firsthand sense of the entire Super Bowl experience.
“I watched the whole game, and the pregame and all that, because I really wanted to get a feel for it in case we were there (someday),” Wilson said. “I believed that we would (be) and, sure enough, we are.”
Wilson, Seattle’s second-year quarterback, has done everything he can to prepare himself for Super Bowl XLVIII against the Denver Broncos. In recent weeks he has sought the advice of NFL acquaintances with their own Super Bowl experiences, including New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees. Wilson even took the chance to query former Pittsburgh Steelers QB Terry Bradshaw when the latter was on hand for the trophy presentation after the Jan. 19 NFC Championship game at Seattle’s CenturyLink Field.
Because the two weeks leading up to the Super Bowl are unlike anything else in the NFL, as is the extraordinary fanfare on game day, Wilson thought it important to learn as much as he could.
“You have to understand about not getting warmed up too early and not getting too fired up,” he explained. “(It’s about) just being in the moment and relaxing as much as possible, and then going out there and playing a great game.”
By the numbers, the Broncos seem to have a decided quarterback advantage in Sunday’s game. Denver QB Peyton Manning has the edge in NFL experience with 16 years compared to Wilson’s two, Super Bowl appearances with two compared to Wilson’s zero, and NFL Most Valuable Player awards with five, again compared to Wilson’s zero.
Even Seahawks center Max Unger concedes, “Peyton has been the (quarterback) standard in the NFL for years and years.”
Regardless, the players in Seattle’s locker room are standing behind their teammate.
“Peyton’s a great player and he’s one of the best to ever play the game, no doubt about it,” Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate said. “But No. 3 (Wilson) is a special player himself. And he’s young, so he’s going to get better every day, every game, every year. … We’re definitely comfortable with No. 3.”
“We don’t ask him to run the same offense Peyton does,” pointed out Seattle tight end Luke Willson. “We’ve got Marshawn (Lynch), so we like to run the ball. But Russ still does everything we ask him to do and more. He just makes a ton of plays.”
The question, of course, is whether the 25-year-old Wilson is ready for pro football’s biggest stage. Even Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell acknowledges that “we’re working with a second-year player. A second-year quarterback, and you have to keep that in mind.”
According to Bevell, the Seahawks had some late offensive miscues in the NFC Championship game against San Francisco, and those errors were due in part to Wilson being less than flawless.
“There was definitely something,” Bevell said. “I don’t know if it was (Wilson’s) nerves, but obviously we didn’t function well in those situations. We fumbled on fourth-and-one (at the 49ers’ goal line), and then we fumbled another snap, then we came out (and ran) the wrong way.
“There were a number of things in the last 10-15 plays where we didn’t function as well as we needed to. I’m not putting it all on (Wilson) because there were other things going on, too. But we’re still talking about a second-year player, and that’s the first time that he’s been in that situation. But he never flinched. He came to the sideline, I was able to talk to him … and he got a handle on the situation.
“He’s been fabulous in everything we’ve asked him to do,” Bevell said. “He does a great job of managing all the situations, and he’s come up big in just about every one of them.”
And even in the emotionally packed days leading up to the Super Bowl, “I don’t know how anybody could be better prepared to handle it (than Wilson),” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll said. “That’s his preparation that came way before he ever got to us. He’s a tremendous kid, and I think he’ll be at his best, just like he has been in every other opportunity that we’ve faced.”
Asked what it would mean to him to win a Super Bowl, Wilson had a ready response.
“The thing I’ve thought about more than anything is what it’ll do for this organization,” he said. “We want to win a Super Bowl and be the first ones to win it in our organization, and that’s kind of our mindset. … Obviously to win a Super Bowl, that’s the thing you want to win most.
“It’s the ultimate game,” he added. “It’s the Super Bowl, and you look forward to these moments. You enjoy these moments, too, but you also keep your focus on the main thing and that’s making sure that your mindset is right and ready to go. … I’m looking forward to that, and I’m not going to shy away from it.”
As kickoff nears, “I’m excited about the game,” Wilson said. “I’m excited about the moment and about playing one play at a time, just like always, and hopefully it’s the best 60 minutes of my life.”