I became a fan of Russell Wilson on the worst night of his professional football career.
On February 1, 2015, the Seattle Seahawks were positioned to win their second straight Super Bowl. Trailing 28-24, quarterback Wilson led his team the length of the field to the 1-yard line, and they were poised to go in for the winning touchdown with 30 seconds left to play.
Then, with 115 million people watching, Russell Wilson threw an interception that sealed the victory for the New England Patriots.
Failure doesn’t get much more public than that. It was a crushing defeat for the Seahawks and their fans.
Yet, after it was over, the man who threw the ball sat before a press corps, who were ready to record his humiliation. Then Wilson said, “I can use this for the future.”
He didn’t deflect.
He didn’t put blame on his teammates, or coaches, or the play call. He also didn’t try to downplay a dismal situation and result. He acknowledged his disappointment and his inability to get the job done. “It definitely hurts ... I hate feeling like I’m the one who lost it.”
Then he followed that statement with these words: “I keep my head up though. I know that I prepare. I know I get ready. I know I play my heart out, so when you do that you can’t worry about it too much. You just have focus on what you can do to keep everybody together in terms of mentally and spiritually, and keep staying after it.”
Wilson, the former North Carolina State quarterback, has stayed after it. Now in his ninth pro season, he is off to his best start ever, throwing for nine touchdowns in just two games. Coach Bill Belichick last week called Wilson “The best player in the league, I don’t see anyone better. He can do everything . He’s obviously got great leadership, playmaking skills, and he plays very well in the most critical situations in the game.” Belichick should know, he coached Tom Brady for twenty years.
Russell Wilson has his roots in our area of the country. He grew up in Richmond, VA. His father, Harrison Benjamin Wilson III, is a lawyer who played football at Dartmouth University. His mother Tammy is a legal nurse consultant.
Russell’s great-great-grandfather was a slave to a Confederate colonel, and was freed after the Civil War. His paternal grandfather was a former president of Norfolk State University, and his grandmother was on the faculty at Jackson State University.
The whole family tree speaks of hard work and resilience.
Wilson didn’t let his super failure define him. He took what was valuable from the situation, adjusted his direction accordingly, and moved on.
The players around him have come and gone, but he has been steady, solid, and has improved his game. The Seahawks have prospered under his leadership.
He sets an example with his behavior off the field. You won’t read about him being pulled over on the highway doing 100 mph at 2:00 am, or being stopped in the airport for carrying a gun. There are no lurid affairs in the tabloids.
Google his Why Not You Foundation and you will find 12 articles about his philanthropy for causes to benefit children.
Russell Wilson is my kind of leader.
His name brings to mind words like “forthright,” “clean-cut,” and “All-American pluck.” When things go wrong, he doesn’t lash out to attribute blame, neither does he retreat in despair. As he said, he prepares, gives his best effort, and because of that he is not laid low by the outcome.
Yes, failure may teach us that we have more to learn, but we can look ourselves in the mirror and say, “I gave it my best.” It’s only when we know deep down inside that we cut corners that failure has the power to devastate us. By believing in our abilities and doing all we can to maximize them, we gain one of life’s greatest treasures.
That would be peace of mind.
Next time you find yourself knocked back on your heels, wondering what you should do, think of Russell Wilson. Don’t blame or complain. Go to work and find solutions.
When Wilson is done with football, I hope he runs for office. We could use his brand of leadership.