Wilson is undersized. He speaks in cliches. He talks about faith and family. He doesn’t hit the town with teammates, and many nights he’s in bed by 9 p.m.
“He’s always serious, even when we’re not supposed to be serious,” Seattle fullback Michael Robinson said. “That’s a good thing.”
“He’s pretty much all work and no play,” tight end Anthony McCoy added.
But that doesn’t mean Wilson is without substance. Everything the Richmond native does is backed by motivation, and his meteoric ascent through the NFL has followed a unique and unpredictable path. Those who have known Wilson his entire life say the 24-year-old was always destined for success, but few figured it’d be as an NFL quarterback.
It’s in the genes
Years ago, Harrison Wilson Jr. saw his grandson, barely old enough to run at the time, swing a Wiffle bat. “I can tell he’s going to be very special,” the patriarch told family members.
Russell Wilson’s family tree is rooted in special. His grandfather was president of Norfolk State University, and his grandmother was a college professor. His uncle went to Harvard Law School and is an accomplished Washington attorney, and his father studied law at Virginia and practiced in Richmond.
“Whether it was sports or academics, it really didn’t matter. We wanted to succeed against whatever was deemed the best,” said the quarterback’s uncle, Ben Wilson. “You wanted to play the best and succeed against the best.”
Wilson attended the Collegiate School in Richmond and played football there for Charlie McFall. Though his talent was undeniable, football seemed to have a ceiling. Tom Holliday, N.C. State’s associate head baseball coach, first saw Wilson play baseball as a junior and he had no doubts. “He was a major league baseball prospect,” Holliday said. “He was probably a football player who could maybe make football work because he was so athletic. But you could see a future in baseball.”
Wilson attended N.C. State and played both sports. Several members of his family had competed collegiately, including his father, Harrison Wilson III, who played football and baseball at Dartmouth. In fact, Harrison III attended training camp and played in the 1980 preseason with the San Diego Chargers, reportedly one of the last players cut.
Wilson’s father was a guiding influence but he became sick midway through Wilson’s time at N.C. State. Still, he followed Wilson’s exploits from afar. Ben Wilson would drive to Raleigh, N.C., watch Wilson’s games and report back to Harrison all the details.
On June 8, 2010, Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the Major League Baseball draft. On June 9, Harrison Wilson III died of complications from diabetes.