What makes Russell so good?

Seahawks quarterback Russel Wilson - Jennifer Buchanan, The Herald
Seahawks quarterback Russel Wilson
— image credit: Jennifer Buchanan, The Herald

Despite boasting an impressive college resume, Russell Wilson watched NFL teams pick 74 players ahead of him in the 2012 draft, including a punter. The snub was not based on Wilson’s skills or productivity, but on something beyond his control — his height.

Yet where most teams saw 5-foot-10 5/8 as an insurmountable hurdle for an NFL quarterback, the Seahawks saw a player with enough going for him to overcome his lack of height. Here’s what has allowed Wilson to transcend his diminutive — by NFL quarterback standards, at least — stature:


Wilson’s work ethic is legendary. He will out-work, out-study and out-prepare just about any opponent, and has the intelligence not just to be prepared for a game, but also to know how to keep himself safe on the run, a key element for a mobile quarterback.


Plenty of quarterbacks can buy time with their legs; few are as adept at keeping their eyes downfield as they move, leading to huge plays when the coverage breaks down. Vision is also key for shorter quarterbacks who need to be able to find passing lanes through taller linemen.


Wilson may be undersized for a quarterback, but he actually had the biggest hands of any quarterback at last year’s NFL Scouting Combine. That’s imperative for ball security, especially for a quarterback who plays in a soggy climate.


Often times undersized quarterback means undersized arm, but that’s not the case with Wilson, who has a powertful arm, even by NFL standards. And, perhaps just as important, that arm is extremely accurate.


Wilson’s weekly Houdini acts don’t just keep him out of harm’s way, they set up some of the Seahawks’ biggest plays. Wilson could thrive as a pocket passer, but his elusiveness and running ability only make Seattle’s offense that much more difficult to defend.


Wilson’s arm strength helps him make those impressive throws on the run, but so too does his ability to get his feet in proper position even while evading pressure. Proper footwork within the pocket is essential for any quarterback, but especially for an undersized one who needs to be in the right place to find the right passing lanes.


No matter how physically talented or intelligent Wilson is, he still had to overcome a lifetime of people telling him he was too small, that he should stick with baseball or move to safety or wide receiver. Wilson’s belief in his ability to be great is a big reason why he’s become one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks.

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