RENTON — If Russell Wilson was the long shot to win the Seattle Seahawks quarterback competition, somebody forgot to tell him.
Back in May, when Seahawks coach Pete Carroll declared that the quarterback battle was a three-man race, it was easy to dismiss the chances of Wilson.
The third-round pick was competing against last year’s starter, Tarvaris Jackson, and free agent Matt Flynn, who signed a three-year deal that included a $6 million signing bonus and a guaranteed $10 million.
But the rookie out of Wisconsin never doubted that he could be the starter from day one.
So while Wilson was excited when Carroll told him he had won the starting job, he wasn’t surprised by the news.
“I definitely started with that as a goal,” Wilson said. “I have high expectations of myself. I always have, I always will; that will never waver. I always believe in my talent, I always have.”
A couple days after an impressive showing in Seattle’s third preseason game at Kansas City, Wilson learned he was the starter when Carroll called Wilson to his office to break the news.
“He just gave me a big hug,” Wilson said, “and said, ‘Russell, you’ve done a great job, had a great preseason, you’ve been a leader of this football team and you’ve worked extremely hard to be great, and this is your opportunity now. You’ll be starting.’ I was extremely excited. For my name to be called for this football team is pretty special. I’ve tried to do everything possible to prepare myself and prepare this football team to be great.”
A day after being named the starter, Wilson used the word great quite a bit when talking about his expectations for himself and the team. Wilson may be a rookie, and a third-round pick at that, but it is clear he doesn’t plan on using his inexperience as an excuse.
“Even though I’m a rookie, I believe I can help this team win and do great things,” Wilson said. “… My goal every time I step out on the football field is to be great. I’m never afraid to excel, that’s the way I’ll always be every opportunity I get.”
And Carroll made sure to reiterate Monday that it was Wilson’s impressive showing in the competition, the potential he showed for greatness, that gave him the job, not something Flynn didn’t do.
“He has a great savvy for the game,” Carroll said of Wilson. “There are a lot of things that he does that you can’t coach. His timing, his sense, his feel for when he has to escape, His feel for stepping up, his awareness about when to run and how to get out abounds or get down when he is about to get hit. All of that stuff is part of his package, and he has terrific arm talent, he’s a very accurate thrower. We have no restrictions in any way of what we’re doing, and we’re very excited about that.”
Wilson will certainly have his doubters heading into this season, just as he has throughout his career as a 5-foot-11 (and we’re rounding up, here) quarterback. But after winning a starting job, just like he has every year since he redshirted as a college freshman, Wilson says his goal isn’t to prove his doubters wrong. But rather continue to do what has gotten him this far: compete and strive for greatness.
“I’m always competitive,” he said. “I believe I’m the biggest competitor in the world, to be honest with you.”
But even if Wilson isn’t motivated by his doubters, he does take pride in being something of an anomaly as an undersized NFL quarterback.
“Me being a shorter quarterback, I believe that I’m playing for a lot of other kids in the future, to be honest with you,” he said. “That’s part of my motivation.”
But Wilson’s biggest motivation? Well he made it clear Monday that he’ll settle for nothing less that greatness.
“I desire to be great,” he said. “That’s my goal. That’s the biggest thing for me.”
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.