Kristen Shilton, January 18, 2014
Russell Wilson is one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the NFL, a dynamo on the ground and through the air. This weekend, he will lead the Seahawks against Seattle's , the rival San Francisco 49ers, with a spot in the Super Bowl on the line.
But there's something beyond a shot at a Lombardi Trophy that motivates Wilson.
In 2012, Wilson founded the Russell Wilson Passing Academy, designated as a football camp for children ages 9-17 who play all positions on the football field.
The Cincinnati native's goal in starting the program goes further than just teaching the fundamentals of a game - he strives to promote the "physical and mental development of youth." From encouraging kids to establish high character and moral standards to understanding the importance of respecting authority and the value of fair play, Wilson has high hopes for what the academy can impart on impressionable youths.
Wilson has camp outposts in a number of U.S. cities throughout the coming summer months. Beginning in Seattle, Wash., the camps travel through Richmond, Va., Raleigh, N.C., Vancouver, British Columbia, Los Angeles, Calif., before finishing the tour in Madison, Wisc., where Wilson finished his college career.
Back in his collegiate days, Wilson spent plenty of time in both Raleigh and Madison. He started his college career playing quarterback for North Carolina State, where Wilson was the first freshman signal caller in team history to be named to the first-team All-ACC.
For his final year of college eligibility, Wilson transferred to the University of Wisconsin. He led the Badgers to the 2012 Rose Bowl with a performance that season which included throwing a single-season record 33 touchdown passes.
Still, when he declared to the NFL draft, scouts and analysts predicted Wilson would fall to the middle rounds because even after an impressive collegiate showing, his 5'11" height was considered a huge liability. The Seattle Seahawks eventually selected him in the third round, 75th overall.
So while today Wilson is in the upper echelon of starting quarterbacks, he didn't get there without a substantial amount of perseverance. His journey was about more than a big arm and the ability to read defenses; it was about patience, faith and hard work. Those are pillars at his camp, which offers scholarships to inner city and underprivileged youth so they too can experience the camaraderie and competition.
That's the real motivation for Wilson: that the lessons of football pale in comparison to the ones that lead young people towards finding a greater purpose in life.