As a 20 something, arguably handsome native North Carolinian who equally serves as an ACC basketball fanatic and an avid worshiper of the deceased Whitney Houston, I don’t find it surprising that the second most popular question I was asked in 2012 was: Why the hell are you a Seahawks fan? The first being “why are you single”? Both are equally annoying, but at least the first has a definitive answer: I’m a huge supporter of the incredibly talented Russell Wilson. Many could make the argument that this article will be inflicted with personal bias and in the wake of such an accusation that could discredit my personal argument supporting Russell Wilson as the deserving Rookie of the Year, I will quote the mogul, Sean Carter, himself: men lie, women lie, numbers don’t (lie).
I’m no acclaimed sports analyst but by my assessment, Wilson, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III (cleverly aliased RG3) are the forerunners for the award. It was a great year for Alfred Morris, I’ll concede, but let’s face it: it was the year of the quarterback. Breaking records has been the consistency for all three this season. Coincidentally, each of the rookies have doubly served as first year icons for the National Football League (NFL), securing their positions as franchise quarterbacks. Fans followed all three quarterbacks to the playoffs obsessing over the statistics. How did each rookie rank against the other? Of course part of the hype had more to do with the fact that the Redskins and the Seahawks faced off during the first round of the playoffs in Washington, D.C. in what some called the Battle of the Birds. The biggest difference between the QB contenders was that hardly anyone expected Russell to be there. At the end of his season, he was the last rookie quarterback standing.
Let’s take it back to last March. Friends and family gathered at Russell’s uncle’s place to celebrate the NFL Draft. ESPN was present and preparing for the announcement, many of us were catching up for the first time since the wedding and deliberately busying ourselves with mindless chat to subdue rattled nerves. The calmest person in the room, I’m sure, was Russell. Well into the night we entered the third round and there was sudden emphasis on the number 75. The phone rang and Pete Carroll announced that he wanted Russell to come out to Seattle. Nearly a year later, to say we’re all proud of his success is an understatement. Sans the fanfare and contrary to naysayers who obsessed over his height, Russell has proven himself as one of the best rookie quarterbacks to enter the NFL.
Here are some stats amassed by the shortest QB in the league:
• His 100.0 passer rating is the fourth in the NFL
• His 26 touchdown passes tied Peyton Manning’s 1998 record for the most by a rookie
• Led his the team to two back-to-back wins at 50 points or more – the first team in the NFL to do so since 1950
• Against the Atlanta Falcons Russell threw for 385 yards, the most for a Seahawks quarterback in a playoff game
• Those 385 yards are also the most ever for any NFL rookie post-season
• Finishing 8-0 at CenturyLink Field, Russ is the first rookie QB in the history of the NFL to lead his team to a perfect home record
Beyond the numbers is the prowess of the athlete. I headed to Seattle back in August to catch some preseason action and at that point, Russell hadn’t secured his position as the starting quarterback. He’d caught Pete Carroll’s attention early on but was vying for the position against former Green Bay Packers QB Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson (who later went to the Buffalo Bills). In a conversation with Russell about the upcoming season, he was happy to be a part of the Seahawks and ready to play for the team whether or not the starting position turned out to be his own. His hard work was rewarded and Wilson was selected to start in the season opener against the Arizona Cardinals.
Among the youngest on the squad yet one of the most revered by his teammates, you’ve got a guy who is creating a legacy in the League. Tight end Zach Miller (who had an amazing game against the Falcons) said, “Obviously he’s a franchise quarterback. He’s a guy who wins games for you.” He concluded that quotation by mentioning that the team wanted to win Sunday’s match-up against the Falcons just a bit more because Russ had played so well and it was his rookie year. I’d have to agree with fullback Mike Robinson who said “the thing about Russell is he has so many facets to his game. He can do so much; he can stay in the pocket and throw; he can throw on the run; he can beat you with his legs and he can beat you with his mind.”
The beauty of it all…he’s just getting started.
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ted S. Warren