SEATTLE – Russell Wilson is a rookie, but it did not take his Seahawks teammates long to see that the quarterback was not a typical first-year player.
“First time I shook his hand,” wide receiver Golden Tate said.
“First time in the huddle,” offensive guard Paul McQuistan said.
The Patriots won’t forget their first game against Wilson. Seattle’s third-round pick made big plays with his feet and his arm all game Sunday to rally the Seahawks to a stunning 24-23 victory.
“I’m proud of the young fella,” said Tate, who is all of eight months older than the 23-year-old Wilson.
Seattle coaches and players have raved not just about Wilson’s athletic talents, but also his poise and maturity.
“He’s a very, very mature rookie,” Tate said. “He works very, very hard. He studies hard. He’s in there early. He stays late. He wants to get better every single moment of the day. You’ve got to love that in a quarterback.”
Wilson’s late father, Harrison Wilson III, was a star receiver at Dartmouth. Harrison never made it past training camp with the Chargers, but he helped his youngest son develop his quarterbacking skills and work ethic by putting Russell and his brother through 6 a.m. football drills back home in Richmond.
“My biggest fear is not being prepared,” Wilson said. “That’s what I’ve always been like. I’ve always been prepared the right way.”
Wilson starred at North Carolina State and, last year, at Wisconsin after Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien grew upset when Wilson chose to skip offseason football workouts to play second base in the Colorado Rockies farm system.
Wilson’s athletic ability and strong right arm are plain to see, but many NFL teams were wary of the fact he stands just 5 feet 11 inches. Fortunately for the Seahawks, Russell comes up huge in ways that don’t involve a tape measure.
“He’s always doing little things to get that edge,” McQuistan said. “He’s really special.”
“He’s done a heck of a job,” wide receiver Sidney Rice said. “He’s handling himself real well. The thing I like most about him is, when something goes wrong out there, he’s not one of those guys that gets down, mopes around, things like that.
“He’s always on the sidelines telling us to keep our head up, stay in the game and be ready to go out and make plays. That’s exactly what he did today.”
Wilson, noticeably smaller than nearly all of his teammates, also stood out among his many jeans-wearing teammates when he meticulously dressed in a tailored charcoal suit. The knot of his tie was just right, the white dress shirt without a hint of a wrinkle.
Wilson, it seems, is as cool off the field as on.
“I think I’m always comfortable no matter what the situation . . . I always trust myself,” he said.
He demonstrated that trust by airing out a perfectly thrown 46-yard touchdown pass to Rice with barely a minute left Sunday.
“I think he squeezed it with four hands,” Wilson joked.
“I was running with all my might,” Rice said. “I looked up, saw the ball. I said, ‘You can’t let this one get away.’ ”
Wilson joked that his third touchdown pass might not have been as “pretty” as the self-described “duck” Rice threw earlier in the game on a fake reverse.
Wilson, who turns 24 next month, carries himself like a veteran. He effortlessly sneaks in praise in interviews for virtually everyone — offensive linemen, running backs, receivers, coaches, etc. — and he makes it sound normal for a rookie third-round pick to be starting at quarterback.
“Obviously, I’m a rookie,” he said, “but I’ve played a lot of football in my lifetime. You get all these little experiences and little nuggets of information from every game.”
Wilson has not been without faults and inconsistency in his first six games, but it’s not difficult to see why Seahawks coach Pete Carroll made him the starter.
“I know he took it personally the last few weeks when we had trouble moving the football,” wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. “But you can tell when it’s crunch time, he gets more poised.”