My apology to Russell Wilson

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First order of business, since I’m Monday-morning quarterbacking, is to apologize to Russell Wilson.

Yes, he’s the Seattle Seahawks quarterback, and I was rooting for Peyton Manning. I wasn’t rooting for the Denver Broncos. I don’t know most of them. Well, I don’t really know any of them.

I was rooting for Peyton because I like to root for history. I wanted him to become the first quarterback to win a Super Bowl with two teams. I wanted him to reach the highest pinnacle he could. And then I wanted him to retire.

After his injury and doubts about his return to football, he not only found a team, but he was relentless with that team, pushing them to the Big Game like old times. But it wasn’t like old times. I winced every time a defender got CLOSE to him. I was worried about his neck every game of the season.

But back to that apology.

I was so focused on Peyton that I paid no attention to Russell Wilson, a phenom from Virginia who played at N.C. State in my home state, a young man who turned down a professional baseball contract offer from the Baltimore Orioles while playing football and baseball at the Collegiate School, a Richmond high school, because his father wanted him to attend college.

Read The Washington Post’s Kent Babb describe his journey:

2019947954“Harry Wilson, the son of educators, was living with adult-onset diabetes. His vision was disappearing and his health was deteriorating. But he wanted his son to earn his degree. Russell had heard for years about how the family valued education and about Harry’s father, who was once the president of Norfolk State University and whose sons had become attorneys. With an education, Harry told his son, who knew what greater opportunities — bigger even than a million-dollar bonus — were possible?

Young Russell agreed, making the pledge and turning down the Orioles. And like when they let their hair grow, the father and son could experience this together, too. He signed in 2007 to attend North Carolina State, where he’d play baseball and football, beginning an unexpected journey to the Seattle Seahawks and the Super Bowl.

“Harry planted a dream in Russell’s mind,” said Ben Wilson, Harry’s brother and an attorney in Washington. “And now we’re all watching it come to fruition.”

The brothers occasionally traveled to Raleigh, N.C., Ben leaving his home in Northwest Washington and picking up Harry on their way to watch Russell.

When Harry’s disease sunk its teeth in, his eyes no longer working, they’d sit at Carter-Finley Stadium with Ben describing the action to his brother…”

I didn’t know that in advance. I didn’t read the reams of pre-Super Bowl coverage. I didn’t watch the coverage leading up to the game. None of my teams were in it, so I missed the biggest story of this year’s game.

redskinsMy teams are Washington and New Orleans. So when they’re not playing, I’m watching the Super Bowl because it is an American tradition that was watched by nearly half of us in 56 markets this year. So I didn’t pay attention to Russell Wilson, or his amazing story or how he honored his dad or how he won the sports’ biggest game in only his second year in the league.

Second year.

“The second-year player has racked up a 100 passer rating in each of his first two years, along with over 1,000 yards rushing, while leading the Seahawks to 28 wins, including the playoffs,” according to a nicely done Forbes piece about his future. “The only other QBs with a 100 passer rating each of the past two seasons are (Aaron) Rogers and (Peyton) Manning. Wilson has done it at a bargain rate as a third-round draft pick on his first contract. His 2013 salary was $526,217, or less than Manning makes per game, providing the Seahawks ample salary cap room to address other needs.

malcolm-smithRussell Wilson wasn’t named MVP of the Super Bowl. It went to the Seahawks’ defensive team. They gave it to Malcolm Smith because of two flashy plays that were part of a season of excellence, but I hope he knows he was accepting it for a defensive team that was dang near perfect.

But Wilson was MVP of football this year. His is a story that’s worth telling over and over. Here are the entire Forbes and Washington Post pieces. Learn about him.

Because he’s going to be a $100 million quarterback. He’s going to be one of the greats.

And I’m sorry I missed it. I’m sorry I wasn’t seeing him accomplish what he did in the Super Bowl while knowing how he got there.

I’m sorry, Russell. But I promise I’ll be watching from now on.

ROCHELLE RILEY is a writer and blogger whose posts here are about her personal adventures. You can read her columns at www.freep.com/rochelleriley. And she hopes you will support her Kickstarter campaign to record an acoustic gospel album here!
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