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RENTON, Wash. – Russell Wilson was moving again on Thursday afternoon. He was moving through the halls of the Seattle Seahawks headquarters, ducking around corners, sliding past a group of fans, the locker room door, the entrance to the practice field, toward the stairs. He had 15 minutes free and he needed to watch film.
There had to be something new on the tapes he had undoubtedly watched dozens of times already – a new formation, a trend in the defense, a different way to make a play. Probably he already knew what it was and had dissected it 10 times, but to be sure he would want to watch it again. It's best to always be prepared.
This has become something of a joke around the Seahawks locker room. Players see his empty locker and heads turn. Where's Wilson? Then they nod. Oh yes, he's watching film.
"Why I think he's there right now," said wide receiver Sidney Rice, resting during an hour-long break between a walkthrough and a practice.
And indeed Wilson was.
Never have the Seahawks seen a player quite like this. One so earnest, so methodical, so devoted that he almost lives at the team complex, arriving early in the morning and leaving late at night. A rumor has spread through the locker room that the team kicked Wilson out of the headquarters during the bye week. The players shrug. It sounds like Wilson.
"I take copious notes," he said as he headed toward the film room.
Into the year of the rookie quarterback that was only supposed to be about Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III comes Russell Wilson. No one could have expected this back on the second day of the NFL draft when Wilson was taken in the third round, seemingly to be a backup to newly signed Matt Flynn. But Seahawks coach Pete Carroll is forever using the word "compete", throwing it around the team offices like a tired cliché. Every job is open the word implies, allowing for someone to burst in and seize it.
This summer Wilson did. And then he went into the season and kept ducking away from pass rushers and heaving passes downfield, making the impossible suddenly real. He drove the Seahawks (7-5) back to beat the Green Bay Packers, Carolina Panthers and New England Patriots. He gave Seattle a late lead in Detroit that should have stood and finally he beat Chicago with a touchdown drive at the end of regulation and another in overtime for the most improbable victory of all.
Now the conversation about Luck and RG3, and MVP and rookie of the year honors has to include Wilson. His 2,344 yards and 19 touchdowns against only eight interceptions demand it.
He's been so poised and efficient that the team's quarterback coach Carl Smith smiles when asked about him and said: "Let's say this, he's no problem. He fixes stuff."
Still, different than the other quarterbacks in the NFL. And it has nothing to do with the fact he is just 24 and already done with a minor league baseball career and stands less than 6-feet tall. It's not even the uncanny confidence with which he seems to walk. Rather, he just is so devoted.
The words of the Seahawks quarterback come in a measured pace, each carefully selected for its lack of vitriol and enmity; so scrubbed clear of controversy that when strung together they reveal nothing of the man who has come to stun the NFL. They are filled with earnest clichés like: "I try to let everything go" and "You have to learn from your lessons."
In contrast to the vociferous RG III, Wilson is intentionally dull in public, clearly masking an inner exuberance that only his teammates know.
Except most don't.
Because the cautious, prepared quarterback who says nothing incriminating in his interviews is well, a cautious, prepared quarterback who generally says nothing incriminating among his teammates.
"To be honest, the person you see in the media is the same guy we see in the locker room," center Max Unger said. "That's real. The way he conducts himself is strictly business."
"You guys in the media think when you hear him talk: 'Oh that's not what he thinks.' But it is exactly what he thinks," Unger said.
"It's genuine," Carroll adds.
The same way he pushed himself into the starting role and rookie of the year talk, Wilson has shoved the Seahawks into the playoff picture. And when the Chicago game was over and Seattle was suddenly seen as a real contender, he went into the locker room at Soldier Field and cut loose like never before.
"You know, you may scream and shout a little bit," he said.
Just a little.
"Ah come on he knows how to have fun," Wilson's roommate on the road, Robert Turbin said. "If you have six or seven hours of free time you're not going to spend the whole time watching film."
Then Turbin paused.
"He does watch a lot of film, though."
After Thursday's practice had ended, the indoor field here emptied with Wilson presumably headed to watch more film. Carroll smiled as he explained how Wilson needs to double and triple-check everything; to make sure he understands everything; know that nothing will be amiss.
"He's almost too good to be true," Carroll said.
Yet a very real thing in the improbable year.
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