Seattle Children’s. Sonics tributes. An NFL-record Seahawks deal: Russell Wilson is all Seattle

Russell Wilson describes growing up, always being told no—then landing in perfect situation with Seahawks

Newly minted $140-million quarterback Russell Wilson describes growing up, always being told no—then landing in perfect situation with Seahawks.
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Newly minted $140-million quarterback Russell Wilson describes growing up, always being told no—then landing in perfect situation with Seahawks.

Russell Wilson grew up back East always hearing one word from outsiders.

It was the opposite of “believe.”

“You’ve got to remember something: being 5-11, 5-10 out of Richmond, Virginia...and everybody’s telling you ‘No,” he said Wednesday.

“You’ve got a lot of things you want to accomplish.”

His latest one: becoming the richest player in the NFL. The Seahawks quarterback made that official Wednesday afternoon when he signed his whopping, $140 million contract for four years with a record $107 million guaranteed.

The largest deal in league history binds him to Seattle through the 2023 season, when he will be 35—though on Wednesday he said he intends to be “a Seahawk for life.”

“I never thought about being the highest-paid player. I always did believe I’d hopefully be a great winner, though,” said the winningest quarterback over the first seven seasons of a career in NFL history. “That’s just kind of my mentality. I didn’t come here just to make it in the NFL. My goal was to be able to make a stamp.”

From the back of the Seahawks’ main auditorium inside team headquarters, Wagner nodded. The All-Pro linebacker was one of many teammates there to watch this celebration of Wilson and his new reward.

“Bobby and I had many a conversations our first year, just before the season, about just being great and just being obsessed with being great, and what that would be like and what we could do in just proving people wrong,” Wilson said.

The franchise quarterback was seated between coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the men who drafted him into the NFL and to Seattle in the third round in 2012 then made him their starter from the first game of his rookie year.

That was when much of the rest of the league said Wilson was too small to make it big.

“I think about the next kid to be honest with you. I think about the next player, the next person. Somebody who’s in Atlanta, Georgia, somebody who’s in New York right now, somebody who’s out of the country, wherever they are, if I can be a glimpse of inspiration,” Wilson said.

“Hopefully I can inspire somebody else, some young kid, some young girl, whoever that may be. And if I can change one kid’s life, it’s worth it. For me to be here standing on this stage with John and Pete and this organization and everything else, every early morning, every late night, every opportunity, every disappointment, every high and every low, it’s been worth it. And I think, like I said, it’s just beginning.”

The man who recites “the separation is in the preparation,” who three seasons ago flew his physical therapist up from California to provide round-the-clock care such as walking him up every couple hours every night to keep a badly sprained knee and ankle from swelling and preventing him from playing, wanted all to know he didn’t just snap his finger to become a Super Bowl champion.

No, the league’s highest-paid player feels he’s earned this.

Quarterback Russell Wilson describes his road to this point, why he wanted to stay in Seattle after signing his record-setting Seahawks contract totaling $140 million.

“It didn’t just happen. Success doesn’t just happen. Success leaves clues,” he said.

“And I think by hard work, I think by being surrounded by great teammates, great people, that’s critical. I was fortunate to come in in 2012 with great teammates and great players around us. We were all really young. I think we were the youngest team in the NFL at the time, second-youngest team in the NFL and we were just really hungry and I think that’s what we have in this locker room now. Guys that are just really dedicated to the game, dedicated to their craft. It makes it fun to come to work.

“I was blessed with the right situation, the right time. When John and Pete called me when I got drafted, I’ll never forget I told them ‘This is going to be the best decision of your life, hopefully.’”

Schneider nodded in agreement, then said with a wry grin: “From a football standpoint.”

“From a football standpoint,” Wilson replied. “Yeah, (you) marrying Traci was probably better.

“But, you know, I was going to make 31 other teams regret it. That was my mentality, and still is today. I’ve just been fortunate, very, very fortunate and blessed to be with great teammates, a great culture here, a great organization and there’s no better place than here. And obviously a great city with amazing fans, the best fans in the world.

“So this is a special thing.”

Yes, to Wilson this contract reaffirms he is all Seattle.

So Seattle, the quarterback was rockin’ a vintage, pre-1970s SuperSonics jacket of a family photo op.

After the post-contract press conference and posing for the cameras with his wife Ciara and their kids, the Wilson family went upstairs inside Seahawks headquarters for a ceremonial signing of that benchmark deal. At $35 million per year, it eclipses the $33.5 million per season with $98.2 million guaranteed Aaron Rodgers got from Green Bay last year.

Yes, Wilson was still wearing the throwback Sonics jacket while signing the contract.

What a difference a franchise quarterback, $107 million guaranteed and a proclamation he wants to end his career as a Seahawk make.

A few years ago punter Jon Ryan re-signed a Seahawks contract while wearing a Gary Payton jersey from the Sonics, Seattle’s NBA team from 1967 until owner Howard Schultz sold the beloved franchise to Oklahoma investors when then moved the team to Oklahoma City in 2008.

Nobody inside Seahawks headquarters was mad at Wilson on Wednesday. And, yes, they do get it.

So does Wilson. He gets financial security for a lifetime, and his eventually his grandchildren’s lifetimes, and their children’s lifetimes, too.

He says he feels as secure in this franchise, and this city.

“One of the coolest parts is just thinking about this community. Just thinking about when I got here on May 10, 2012, and calling Seattle Children’s hospital and just being able to dive into this community and help in any way I can,” Wilson said.

Every Tuesday pretty much all year, in season and out, after wins and after losses, Wilson visits Seattle Children’s in the Laurelhurst neighborhood in Northeast Seattle. He doesn’t just show up, either. He puts on special no-contamination suits and enters the quarantined rooms of the sickest, most at-risk kids in our region. He goes into the cancer units, to the children whose families have been told they have maybe months to live, and tells those kids “Why Not You?”

The hospital community—from patients and visitors through doctors, nurses, staffers, cooks, gardeners, security people—love Wilson for far more than winning Seattle’s only Super Bowl a five years ago.

All of Seattle has “Blue Fridays” before Seahawks weekend games. Seattle Children’s has “Blue Tuesdays,” for Wilson’s visits.

Tuesday, hours after his midnight agreement on the contract, he shared his latest visit to Seattle Children’s, to see Louisa.

“It’s not just to help people,” he said of his aim in the Seattle community and beyond. “It’s to try to influence people, and to try to make an impact., you know what I mean? I think there’s a difference. And to lend a helping hand whenever I can.

“For Ciara and I, we have been able to do a lot of cool things at Seattle Children’s hospital. From our Why Not You foundation to be able to do a lot of amazing things around that, around the community.

“One of the coolest things I think about is literally seeing kids like Milton Wright and different kids that I have been able to meet and encounter who literally go into a hospital room with cancer and walk out, you know, hopefully in a few weeks, two weeks, with no more cancer.

“That’s the most rewarding thing that I get to do.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.