Russell Wilson’s first love was baseball.
He played it practically from birth with his grandfather, father and older brother.
In fact, some of his earliest memories of loving sports go back to getting his brother’s ground balls, batting practice with his brother, hitting his first home run on his big bro’s pitch.
But there is a very distinct moment that Wilson fell in love with football.
Having grown up playing baseball morning, noon and night - a ton of double-headers and even a few triple-heaaders - Wilson was used to throwing a ball and would often toss the pigskin with teammates between games and at weekend tournaments.
Going into seventh grade, he had begged to play football but his mom didn’t want him putting on pads and wearing a helmet yet. But during a baseball tournament in North Carolina, he was throwing the football with “Schmitty,” a coach’s son who played on the Tuckaho Tomahawks football team.
Wilson launched the football (just as he did the baseball) and this time it was Schmitty taking up the case with Wilson’s dad for the young Wilson to play football.
His father relented and Wilson showed up to the practice, threw around a bunch of balls and went home. He could play on the team; there was a game the next day.
“First play of the game, the QB gets hit and busts his spleen,” Wilson recalled on a recent podcast with Greg Olsen. “I ended up drawing plays in the dirt, and we won like 60-7. I lit it up, and it was the coolest experience and that’s when my love for football really took over.”
Wilson’s passion for football - and baseball - are highlighted throughout the podcast, whose focus is really youth sports. And it’s worth a listen to hear Wilson’s personal perspective on all things youth and sports because it provides great insight into his own approach to playing - and winning - the game.
For one thing, he’s a big fan of kids playing multiple sports as long as they can. Growing up a multi-sport athlete and playing both baseball and football at a high level, Wilson believes the different sports have aided in his skill level (such as better eye-hand coordination, good footwork, etc.)
But more importantly, playing multiple sports has helped with the mental side of the game - especially navigating the various highs and lows that come in different ways through different styles of play - the methodic play of baseball, the boom or bust play of football, the constant pace of basketball.
“Baseball will take your soul away,” he admitted, adding that one of his favorite things to do in sports is to lead a comeback. “But how’d I learn to do that? By being down by 5 runs in the 9th inning. Those moments you can’t get anywhere else.”
The quarterback also has specific thoughts on coaching kids to win versus “just have fun.” Sure there’s a place for the latter, but the former is why kids play sports - so coach it that way.
“If you’ve got a kid who is talented, I think it’s a requirement to coach and train them to be the best version of themselves,” he said. “And if they mess up, coach them right there. Boom.”
And don’t get Wilson started on the trend to coach that it’s OK to tie. It’s not. The point is to win after all. So coach it that way.
“Losing sucks,” Wilson admitted. “I hate to lose.”
This bodes well for Wilson and the Broncos. Olsen asked Wilson if Denver “will just let you be you?” — meaning, will the Broncos “let Russ cook”?
“I think what we can expect is a lot of showtime games,” Wilson said. “I think for me what’s the most important thing is it’s about winning, whatever that means to be able to do that. ...To go and take over the game and whatever it may be. It’s time for that to happen, game in and game out.”
Oh, this is finally going to be a fun season.