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Sports Authority

Give Wilson some respect

| Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Checking in at 5-foot-11, Russell Carrington Wilson has always been stuck in someone’s shadow. Even as a professional football player, he is overshadowed by his own unsuccessful professional baseball career, an anecdote that seems to follow nearly every analysis. Overlooked as an elite quarterback, Wilson has never been given the recognition he deserves, as if some other personal characteristic reigns supreme in his social identity.

Coming out of high school, Wilson was a two-star recruit, despite gaudy career numbers, two all-state nominations and two state championship wins.

Wilson proved his critics wrong. Throughout four years, Wilson threw for 11,720 yards, 109 touchdowns, and only 30 interceptions. His senior year at Wisconsin, after playing three years for North Carolina State, Wilson set the FBS record for passing efficiency with a mark of 191.8, a record he still holds.

Again, the doubters took over. As 32 teams judged a man by his height rather than his skills and performance, Wilson fell to the third round of the NFL draft.

During his rookie season, Wilson won the starting job in Seattle and led the Seahawks to a playoff spot. He also finished fourth in the NFL in passer rating, while earning a trip to the Pro Bowl, and being named Rookie of the Year.

Yet, he spent the entire season in the shadows of Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III, the proclaimed future superstars of the NFL. Though he shook off the critics and all those who agreed 74 players should have been drafted before him that year, Wilson was stuck in the background once again.

This season, Wilson dodged the fateful sophomore slump and led his team to the Super Bowl. As the biggest game in professional football approached, one of the shortest quarterbacks in the NFL was once again pushed out of the sightline. When pundits broke down the strengths of Seattle, they talked about their running game or their dominant secondary. They talked about Richard Sherman and the Legion of Boom. When pundits talked about the quarterback position, they focused on the legendary Payton Manning.

From the shadows, Wilson calmly threw for over 200 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions, and completed over 70 percent of his passes in the biggest game of his career, with the brightest lights shining.

Now, as a Super Bowl-winning quarterback, Wilson still manages to stand head and shoulders below his compatriots in the elite club. Critics will continue to shrink the successes of Wilson. He doesn’t possess the skill set of other top passers. It’s the team around him that makes him good; he rode a historically great defense and strong running game to a Super Bowl, where they won him a ring. While most quarterbacks bring home millions of dollars, Wilson isn’t even in the top-50 salaries for the position.

Heck, Wilson is still stuck in the shadow of Andrew Luck, who was recently voted by players as the second most desired quarterback in the NFL, behind only the player Wilson just beat in the Super Bowl.

I doubt Wilson minds this too much. The selfless quarterback makes weekly trips to the Seattle Children’s Hospital during his days off. He also organizes a summer passing camp in several cities for young football players. All the proceeds go to the Charles Ray II Diabetes Association.

Will anything change for Wilson? Eventually. In time, Wilson will be allowed to raise himself up above those around him and step up into the spotlight.

Until then, Wilson will keep doing what he does: performing at a high level and winning football games. Next time you’re asked to name the top quarterbacks in the NFL, throw Wilson out there.

The regular media processes of the NFL will fail to raise Wilson above the rest, even with a Super Bowl ring. When the quarterback position is talked about, Wilson will be stuck in the shadows of the big names at his position, the big contracts at his position, and the über-talented players around him.

Who knows how long it will take for others to turn the spotlight No. 3’s way? Until then, let’s give the man a hand up. He deserves it.

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