JERSEY CITY, N.J. – One of the two Super Bowl quarterbacks said he spent almost the entire long flight to New Jersey studying film.
"Just studying, going over everything again," the quarterback said. "Watching all the third downs and red zone, just preparing my mind. At the end of the day, all of this and all the excitement is great, but it comes down to playing football at a high level."
Wilson was the one watching film on the way to New Jersey, though it's a good bet that Manning did on his flight too. As players the two are much different. Wilson is in his physical prime, a player who can set up in the pocket and deliver a pass but also scramble around to buy time when needed. Manning wasn't a scrambler in his prime and certainly isn't at age 37. They're obviously physically different too, as Manning is six inches taller than the 5-11 Wilson.
But Manning has become famous for his meticulous preparation, and Wilson is following right in those footsteps.
Manning understands every situation because he lives football. As he was establishing himself as one of the game's all-time greats, he was viewed as a robot, and he admitted that maybe he was as a younger player. He said he isn't a robot anymore. Age and having kids has changed that.
"There was a time when I would come home from practice and I would stay up until 1-1:30 in the morning because I had to watch all four of their preseason games that night," Manning said. "I thought that if I didn’t watch all four of those games, the world might come to an end the next day."
That's his reputation and it is the new blueprint for how a quarterback can succeed. Whether it was conscious or not, Wilson has become just like Manning that way. Back when Wilson transferred to Wisconsin, he had the offense down cold by the time training camp started, even though he made his decision at the end of June and camp started in August. His former college teammate, Denver running back Montee Ball, said Wilson would walk around campus with note cards of the plays in his pockets.
"Most of the time he was, he was a robot and straight to business," Ball said. "He would joke around and stuff like that, but he was very focused."
Wilson is not a robot on the field, not with his improvisational skills, but he understands the time needed in the playbook and the film room to establish himself as a top NFL quarterback. He even came to the Super Bowl last year just to observe and learn. So, like Manning so many years ago, that's the reputation he has: a robot. But that's not so bad.
It's why Wilson was able to win the starting job as a rookie in Seattle, and play a big part in the Seahawks getting to Super Bowl XLVIII. His teammates all say that they haven't seen another player prepare like he does. And because he's prepared, they also say they've never seen him get rattled on the field.
"Not that I've seen in two years playing with him," center Max Unger said. "He's as advertised."
Wilson got a chance to be around Manning at the Pro Bowl last year, and said he enjoyed the chance to be around the five-time MVP and see him up close. He admitted that Manning's preparation has influenced him some, but he has his own way of preparing, a checklist that allows him to go into a game feeling confident.
But in general, Wilson might not look like Manning or play like him either, but from Monday through Saturday during the NFL season he has plenty in common with his Super Bowl counterpart.
"All the things he does are A-plus, first class," Wilson said. "I respect that so much about him."
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