JERSEY CITY, N.J. -- Russell Wilson was too small to be a high school quarterback. Too small to be a college quarterback. Too small to be an NFL quarterback.
There was one position, however, to which he was ideally suited.
“I was the prototypical 5'11, 205-pound second baseman,” Wilson said Wednesday from the Seahawks’ team hotel. “I could run, I could hit, I could steal bases. I could do all those things.”
Wilson was taken by the Orioles in the 41st round of the 2007 MLB Draft out of high school, but instead enrolled at NC State the following fall. He spent three seasons at second base for the Wolfpack, and was selected again in the 2010 draft, this time in the fourth round by the Colorado Rockies.
Wilson played 32 games for the Rockies’ short-season A ball team, the Tri-City Dust Devils and batted .230 with two home runs and 11 RBI. But his commitment to baseball and subsequent absence from the NC State football team’s practices began to cause friction between Wilson and NC State coach Tom O’Brien.
When Wilson missed what would have been his final spring practice with the football team for a minor league baseball game, O’Brien named Mike Glennon the Wolfpack’s starting quarterback and Wilson, who had already received his degree from NC State but had a year of football eligibility remaining, used the graduate transfer exception that would enable him to play immediately after transfering to Wisconsin.
He would spend the following summer with the Class A Ashville Tourists of the South Atlantic League, batting .228 with three home runs and 15 RBI. But after a record-setting year at Wisconsin that saw Wilson lead the Badgers to the Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl berth, Wilson informed the Rockies that he was recommitting to football and leaving baseball to pursue a career in the NFL.
“Everybody was telling me I was going to be a big league second baseman,” he said. “I had this itch to play the game of football. I believed that I could go to the Super Bowl and win multiple Super Bowls and do all of those things.
“I believed in that every day. I put the work in and time. I wasn't going to give up on that. I wasn't going to give up on football just because some people told me I shouldn't play. I remember praying about the whole process and praying about if I should play baseball, or do I try to go for football. I remember waking up one morning, maybe June 28th or something like that, I remember waking up and hearing in my ear, 'Go against the odds.' For me, that's kind of how I've always been. If someone tells me, ‘No,’ I'm going to try to do the best I can to prove them wrong and more for myself than anyone else.”
Wilson is doing more than proving the skeptics wrong. After a rookie season that saw him set or tie numerous records, Wilson has his team 60 minutes away from a title in his sophomore season.
“I believe that God has given me a sense of leadership to be able to motivate other people, but also myself,” he said. “I want to be the best one day, and I'm not going to shy away from that. I've got a long ways to go, but I think, to be honest with you, God has put me here for a particular reason."
Wideout Percy Harvin said that leadership ability should not be underestimated.
“The way he prepares, I don’t think I’ve seen too many people have the knack to want be great,’’ Harvin said. “He wants to be a great quarterback. He just doesn’t want to be average or All-Pro. He wants to be talked about as a great quarterback and I don’t think he’s going to stop until he does.”
And just in case the football thing doesn’t work out, there’s always baseball. In December, he was chosen by the Texas Rangers in MLB’s Rule 5 Draft.
“At the end of the day, he obviously has a lot bigger things that he’s working on right now,” Rangers assistant general manager A.J. Preller told the Associated Press, “and we don’t want to interrupt with that aspect of it. But if at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we felt like it would be a positive to have him with us.”