Wilson excited to start
RENTON, Wash. — Russell Wilson walked on the sun-drenched practice field Monday as the freshly minted starter for the Seattle Seahawks.
To Wilson, even though he had a new title, nothing had changed from the previous month of a training camp where he went from being the "other guy" lumped in a three-way quarterback competition to the clear-cut winner.
Wilson was named the Seahawks' starting QB on Sunday night after beating out Matt Flynn for the job and seeing incumbent Tarvaris Jackson traded to Buffalo for a future draft pick. The decision means that Wilson will be one of five rookies to start at quarterback in the regular season, joining Indianapolis' Andrew Luck, Washington's Robert Griffin III, Miami's Ryan Tannehill and Cleveland's Brandon Weeden.
But those other four were all first-round picks. Luck and Griffin were expected to be the starters since draft day. Tannehill's hopes were buoyed by an injury to David Garrard, while Weeden didn't face the stiffest competition for the Browns' starting job.
Wilson? The idea of the third-round pick out of Wisconsin earning the starting job was thought to be a stretch and that his task was to compete with Jackson for the backup job to Flynn. Seattle didn't guarantee $10 million to Flynn as part of a three-year deal for the hottest free agent QB not named Manning, only to stick him on the bench, right?
The last time Wilson wasn't a starting quarterback: the first game of his redshirt freshman season at North Carolina State against South Carolina. Wilson became the starter the next week against Clemson, started the final 50 games of his college career and will continue that streak when the regular season begins fulfilling a goal Wilson set when he was taken by the Seahawks (No. 22 in the AP Pro32) back in April.
"This is an extremely competitive person and it drives him in the way he prepares. He just tirelessly works at it as he worked through the summertime, he was here throughout. He's the last guy to get out of the building. He has done everything he could possibly do to get ready," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "But you tack all that along with his marvelous natural football intelligence he has, he has great savvy for the game (and) there is a lot of things that he does that you can't coach."
Barring an injury in the preseason finale against Oakland on Thursday night, Wilson will become just the third rookie drafted outside of the first round to start a season opener in the last decade. Andy Dalton was a second-round pick in 2011 and led the Bengals to a 9-7 record. Kyle Orton was a fourth-round selection in 2005 and started the opener for Chicago, but only after starter Rex Grossman went down with a broken ankle during the preseason.
Wilson found out the news on Sunday when he was summoned to meet with Carroll, was given a hug by the head coach and informed he would be the starter when the regular season begins on Sept. 9 at Arizona. He called his immediate family and celebrated the way it would be expected, given Wilson's grounded nature — dinner out with his wife and an episode of his favorite TV show, "Entourage."
"Was I surprised? I was more-so excited about the opportunity," Wilson said. "I felt like I put a lot of hard work in. Matt's (Flynn) a great player, too, and just to have the opportunity to help lead this football team is huge. Even though I'm a rookie, I believe in the fact that I can help this team win and do a lot of great things."
Wilson has wowed everyone during the preseason with his numbers in production making up for the measurable numbers that made him a third-round pick instead of a first. His 5-foot-11 stature hasn't shown to be a problem while completing 35 of 52 passes (67.3 percent) for 464 yards, five touchdowns and a league-leading 119.4 QB rating. Wilson's only preseason mistake was throwing a careless end zone interception against Tennessee.
It wasn't so much that Flynn lost the job as Wilson won it. Some believed the competition would go on for another week, but Carroll decided it was time to settle.
"It's good it finally happened. I didn't expect it to happen until after this game," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "The decision they made, I 100 percent support it and I'm excited to see Russell and see what he can do. ... He's got a ton of respect around here, he does a great job in the huddle (and) he handles himself in a professional manner."