Russell Wilson: Preparation, Consistency, & Work Ethic

Paul Chryst, Sports Illustrated (

I met with him for the first time when he and his brother came up for an official visit that spring. He met with the coaching staff, but it was important for him to meet with our players too. We had him meet with our entire offensive line. We wanted him to be comfortable with our players, but more importantly we wanted to know how our players felt about him.

Russell is very personable; he’s charming, focused … he has a great energy about him. People may see him now and think, He’s polished, he’s too good to be true. But that’s who he is. And the more time you spend time with him, and you see how consistent it is, you realize that he’s genuine. Every player we spoke with about him said the same thing: Let’s get him.

I had told him he’d have to compete for the starting job, but it didn’t take long for him to distinguish himself. A big reason was that he picked up our system so quickly. When I think back on our season together, my favorite moments weren’t the wins or this throw or that throw in this game. It was the preparation, the time spent together in the meeting room, the off-the-field rather than the on-the-field. Scott Tolzien had spent five years in our system. With Russell, it was a different challenge for me as a coach. But Russell was a fast learner because he was an eager learner. He took pride in gaining knowledge. Early in camp, he got frustrated with himself when he stumbled spitting out a play. It’s things like that showed you how special he was. He sets the bar high for himself and for everyone around him.

By midseason, we were undefeated and Russell’s name was being mentioned in the Heisman race. Then we lost two games back-to-back—our only losses during the regular season—and both of them came in the final minutes. We were losing by two touchdowns at Michigan State and Russell led two late touchdown drives to tie it. They caught a Hail Mary with no time left on the clock to beat us. One week later at Ohio State Russell threw two late touchdown passes to take the lead and they beat us on a long touchdown pass with less than 30 seconds left. And we all know what losing a game does to a Heisman candidate … It never bothered him though. After each of those games, it came back to consistency for him. He never gets too low or too high. That’s how we got through it.

The way our schedule is now I don’t get to see a lot of him during the regular season, but I do get to watch most playoff games, especially the last two years. Even after he threw the fourth interception in the NFC title game, I knew you couldn’t count him out. Once you know Russell, you’re never surprised by anything he does. But you appreciate what he’s able to do. It’s the same with any great player: He trusts his preparation and he trusts who he is as a competitor. He has trained for these moments. A performance like that doesn’t just happen.

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