The way Russell Wilson has taken the Seahawks quarterback job and made it his own in a few short months, it’s hard to imagine the rookie failing at much.
But it wasn’t that long ago he washed out in the low rungs of minor league baseball.
Wilson left N.C. State in part because of his desire to play baseball and football, but walked away from the Class A Asheville Tourists last June to finish his senior season of football at Wisconsin.
At that point, he was hitting .229, striking out in more than a third of his at-bats. Bo Jackson he was not.
“He was a football player trying to play baseball,” said Marc Gustafson, the Rockies’ senior director of player development, via Larry Stone of the Seattle Times. “He was very talented, but he needed a lot of work.”
The Rockies, who drafted him in the fourth round, raved about his work ethic and leadership, the same kind of things the Seahawks have fallen in love with.
But the difference is in his skill for football, which was never evident on the diamond.
“Our people looked at Russell as a prospect, but we weren’t going to know until 1,500 at-bats,” said Bill Schmidt, Colorado’s vice president of scouting. “It would probably be three years. I told Russell that. There were no guarantees, but he had a tremendous work ethic. He always told me his objective was to play in the NFL and major leagues.”
After stepping away early, Wilson repaid part of his $250,000 signing bonus to the Rockies. And while he dreamed of being a two-sport star, he figured out his ceiling was much higher on the football field.
“I was good, but I still had a long way to go,” Wilson said of his attempt. “Obviously, when you play professional baseball, you have to go through the minor-league levels to get there. It takes time. At the same time, I knew I had this other thing waiting here for me: football.
“I knew I played at a high level in college, and I knew I had one more year left. I had to figure out: Should I do this or not? Just go figure it out. If I didn’t do that, I would have regretted it for the rest of my life, just because I would have never known what I could have done in the NFL.”
The Seahawks are glad he did, and banking on the fact he’s not going to keep striking out.