- Ashley Fox
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The response was memorable and unique.
During the 2012 NFL scouting combine, then-Philadelphia Eagles director of pro personnel Louis Riddick was engaged in an interview with offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler. During the meeting, Riddick asked Zeitler what he thought of Russell Wilson, with whom Zeitler played at Wisconsin the previous season.
Zeitler told Riddick he thought Wilson could be president of the United States one day, if that's what Wilson wanted to do. Wilson engendered those kinds of feelings, that kind of loyalty from the people around him.
"I've never heard anybody say that about a player," Riddick said.
That is one of the many reasons, in just his second season in Seattle, Wilson has emerged as a legitimate candidate to become the youngest player since Dan Marino to win the league's most valuable player award. Marino was 23 when he won it in 1984. Wilson just turned 25.
Peyton Manning will likely win for the fifth time. Manning is on pace to break Drew Brees' record for passing yards in a season. He has thrown 41 touchdown passes against just nine interceptions, completed 68.1 percent of his passes, averages 8.6 yards per attempt and has a 115.3 passer rating -- the best in the NFL. And, the 10-2 Denver Broncos don't have a team with a winning record remaining on the schedule.
Manning certainly would be a worthy recipient, but the case could be made that Wilson would be better.
Wilson has the entire package. He has "it." It doesn't matter that he is only 5-foot-11. He has proven to be transcendent, to be so much more than his size. He is a tireless worker. He is an ardent student of film. And his teammates love him.
Led by Wilson, Seattle has the best record in the league and just slammed the New Orleans Saints on Monday night as if the Saints were winless instead of the second-best team in the NFC.
Wilson doesn't have the statistics that Manning has because the Seahawks' offense isn't built like Denver's. They have a potent running game with Marshawn Lynch and Wilson, who ranks third among quarterbacks with 456 rushing yards. Whereas Manning averages 40 pass attempts per game, Wilson averages 25.4. Even so, Wilson averages 8.8 yards per attempt, has completed 64.9 percent of his passes and has 22 touchdowns against six interceptions.
Voters love statistics. I should know. I am one. But there must be context, too.
Wilson is in just his second season. He has never lost a game at home. His 22 career wins are tied with Ben Roethlisberger for the most through a quarterback's first two seasons (for QBs whose careers began since the merger), and there are still four more games to go this season. Wilson is one of only four quarterbacks ever to throw 20 touchdown passes in each of his first two seasons, joining Marino, Manning and Andy Dalton. And Wilson has the third-best passer rating over the past two seasons, behind Manning and Tom Brady.
Wilson walked into a perfect situation in Seattle as a rookie last season, much like Roethlisberger did when the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted him 11th overall in 2004.
Aside from the troubling recurring suspension of players for violations of the NFL's drug policies, the Seahawks are a stable organization owned by one of the richest men in the world, Microsoft co-owner Paul Allen. Their facilities are pristine. Coach Pete Carroll has surrounded himself with competent, creative coaches, including offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and quarterbacks coach Carl Smith. John Schneider is a smart general manager, who along with Carroll, has built a supremely deep and talented roster top to bottom.
The Seahawks' defense is scary good. The offense has playmakers, even though they still haven't been at full strength. The offensive line has been adequate. And Wilson has fit right in.
The knock on Wilson coming out of college was that he was too short. But beyond his size, Wilson had every intangible you could want. He was voted a captain at Wisconsin just weeks after landing on campus. He comes from a stable, two-parent family. His father was an athlete. His brother and sister are athletes.
And he also endured adversity both on and off the field.
His father died in 2010 after a lengthy battle with diabetes. At North Carolina State, Wilson was forced to choose between playing football or minor league baseball. He didn't necessarily want to transfer to another school; he felt he had to.
The physical attributes were all there. Wilson is a gifted athlete with an admirable work ethic instilled in him when he was a kid by his father.
"Everybody raves about him," Riddick said. "He generally works hard and tries to be the best he can be. He's an All-American kid. He's smart off the field. He's functionally smart on the field and a mentally tough kid. He's been through a lot. He never gets out of sorts on the field and understands what's going on and reacts accordingly.
"He has everything except one thing going for him: height. Don't be shocked if he eventually becomes a Hall of Fame quarterback."
Only two quarterbacks have been the NFL MVP as early as their second season in the league -- Marino and Kurt Warner.
Wilson is young, but he is also deserving of the award. Manning will probably win it, but Wilson should.
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