By Danny R. Johnson
SAN DIEGO – When Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson led the way in helping his team win Super Bowl XLVIII on February 2, 2014, the sports world was completely silent over the fact that he became the second African American quarterback to win a Super Bowl title. The only other African American to do so was Doug Williams, starting quarterback for the Washington Redskins, who won Super Bowl XXII MVP in January 1988 against the you guessed it right – Denver Broncos — the final score was 41-10!
Russell Wilson was born in Cincinnati, Ohio and grew up in Richmond, Virginia, the son of Harrison Benjamin Wilson III, a lawyer, and Tammy T. Wilson, a legal nurse consultant. He has an older brother, Harrison IV, and a younger sister, Anna. Wilson started playing football with his dad and brother at the age of four.
Wilson is multiracial. His racial background is mostly African American, though he also has some Native American ancestry. His great-great-grandfather was a slave to a Confederate colonel and was freed after the American Civil War. Wilson’s grandfather, Harrison B. Wilson Jr., is a former president of Norfolk State University who played football and basketball at Kentucky State University. His father played football and baseball at Dartmouth College and was a wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers preseason squad in 1980. Wilson’s brother played football and baseball at the University of Richmond, and his sister is considered one of the top high school basketball prospects in the country.
Wilson’s father died on June 9, 2010 at age 55 due to complications from diabetes.
Prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson had been projected by National Football League (NFL) scouts and analysts to be a middle-round pick. In February 2012, former NFL quarterback and director of the IMG Madden Football Academy Chris Weinke said of the 5 ft. 11 inches Wilson, “If he was 6-5, he’d probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft.” On April 11, 2012, ESPN Monday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said, “The only issue with Russell Wilson is his height. That might be the reason he’s not picked in the first couple rounds.”
On April 27, 2012, Wilson was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round (75th pick overall) of the draft.
Wilson signed a four-year, $2.99 million contract with the Seahawks on May 7, 2012. He made his preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans on August 11, 2012 and had his first preseason start on August 24 against the Kansas City Chiefs . On August 26, 2012, Wilson was named the starting quarterback for the first regular season game after competing with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson for the position.
The 25 year-old third draft pick, Wilson, proved to everyone who was watching that he had the temperament, skills, and discipline to be a team leader. Wilson finished the 2012 regular season ranked 4th in the NFL in passer rating (100.0), beating the previous rookie record set by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 (98.1). He threw for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns, tying Peyton Manning ‘s record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie. Additionally, Wilson rushed for 489 yards and four touchdowns, and his scrambling abilities earned numerous comparisons to Hall-of-Fame Quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Wilson’s Seahawks opened the 2013 season with the first 4-0 start in franchise history, giving up their first loss to the Colts in week 5. The Seahawks then went on a 7-game winning streak, culminating in a 34-7 victory over the Saints in week 13 in which Wilson threw 3 touchdown passes and earned his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week Award.
Over the next 3 weeks the Seahawks would suffer 2 divisional losses to the 49ers and Cardinals, but defeated the Rams in week 17 to finish the season with a 13-3 record, the NFC West title, and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Wilson finished the season with 26 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions, and a 101.2 passer rating, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to post a 100+ passer rating in each of his first 2 seasons.
Wilson was named to his second Pro Bowl on December 27, 2013. On January 19, 2014, Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, 23-17, sending the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII, where they defeated the Denver Broncos, 43-8.
Danny R. Johnson is San Diego County News’ Washington, DC Based National News Correspondent