Russell Wilson is more than just a Pro Bowl NFL quarterback and Super Bowl champion. He’s a brand, the face of one of the league’s more popular franchises and a devout believer in the concept of development and confidence.
After all, he was one ranked as a two-star recruit and only the 67th-best quarterback prospect in the Class of 2007 … if that.
A decade later, he’s leading the Seahawks through another strong season with an eye on another playoff run. Off the field he’s remarried, and is expecting his first child with wife Ciara, the pop star.
How does he keep it all in balance? In large part, it comes down to a formula he first focused on as a high school star: He claims to be obsessed with preparation, from when he wakes up — he was speaking with USA TODAY Sports on behalf of a partnership with Braun’s new Morning by Design campaign — to every action he takes as his day, and season, evolves.
“I’m a big preparation person, beginning with getting things fresh and clean early and getting ready to have a great day,” Wilson said. “I think great faith and work ethic are behind what I’ve been able to achieve, and preparation is a big part of it as well. That’s my biggest fear in life is to fear that I’m not prepared. That’s my only fear, really. Being prepared every morning and going into every day as a new day, that’s the key to my success.”
That success might be under more physical duress this season than ever before. Wilson has spent the entire 2016 season hobbled by injuries, first by a sprained medial collateral ligament in his left knee (he played through the aches and pains despite recommendations that he sit out four weeks) and a pectoral injury, which may or may not prove to be as shakable as another injury; and a high ankle sprain he suffered in the team’s season opener.
With all of the injuries, Wilson could respond with a very real sense of empathy to comments by fellow All-Pro quarterback Cam Newton on Sunday about referees and his hopes that the league needs to do more to protect its quarterbacks (and chiefly Newton himself).
Wilson’s take? He’s more concerned with what he can control himself, “playing smart” rather than taking a look at the penalties he has and hasn’t drawn.
“I just think, first off, I haven’t been able to watch Cam this year and the hits he’s taken,” Wilson said. “So I can’t comment on those. But playing football, getting hit is part of the game and you try to respect the game. I try to play the game the smart way and get down because there are some big, strong, fast guys chasing after me.”
As for concerns about Wilson’s increased sponsorship activity — Forbes pegs Wilson as the 18th highest paid athlete in the world — and perceived celebrity lifestyle, Wilson insists that it doesn’t impact the way he approaches his life.
“I just ignore the noise,” Wilson said. “I don’t pay attention to that. I have one of the best jobs in the world and I’m one of the few who get to do that. That’s where the preparation to play at the highest level comes in.
“God’s given me so many great opportunities to effect and impact the world. That’s one of my main goals. When I wake up in the morning, I want to wins tons of football games, and from there I also want to impact and change lives and encourage young kids. That’s one of my biggest focuses. My relationship with them and all the companies I’m involved with, it’s more about trying to make an impact in the world than anything else.”
Of course, a significant part of Wilson’s positive Q-rating that attracts those sponsors has to do with the sense that the quarterback is truly genuine, both in his effort and passion. And, to this day, he remains passionate about his roots.
Until this year, he’s been connected with his scholastic past by his sister, budding basketball star Anna, who is currently a freshman on the Stanford basketball team. Since her graduation, Wilson has remained connected both to her and the communities they have both touched — Collegiate School in Richmond and Bellevue, where Anna played her final high school season.
“Anna has been a phenomenal basketball player and student,” Wilson said. “The best thing I can say about my sister is that it doesn’t happen through accident, she works so hard at her craft. It was awesome having her nearby for her final year. Her being here last year with my mom and my sister, it makes a world of difference. We get to see each other a lot, they were at all of my game,s and I got to go see her when she was playing, just like she does with me.”
With eight games remaining in the Seahawks’ regular season, the team is again positioned well to make a playoff push, leading the NFC West with a 4-2-1 record. To get there, and hopefully beyond, Wilson is tapping back into the belief he forged early in his career, channeling the preparation and step-at-a-time mantra that has driven his success.
“I think the first thing is that dreams come true when you capitalize on opportunity. Education and sports have always been a big part of my life. I always wanted to compete at the highest level, and surround myself with great people and great habits,” he said. “Now, we have a singular focus to go 1-0 every week, and have a championship preparation and mindset. That’s the key.”