ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – It was early morning Tuesday, his trade to his new team not yet official, and Russell Wilson and his wife Ciara are standing in the Children’s Hospital, listening to kids.
This is Wilson, always looking to help, forever trying to make life better, if not football. Wilson is always prepared, requiring three hours sleep or so, leaving time for community work, fatherhood and 15-page scouting reports on opponents.
Thanks to our new neighbors @DangeRussWilson and @Ciara for surprising our patients with a personal visit to @RyanFoundation's #SeacrestStudios this morning! Our patients loved the broadcast, conversations and autographs. #HereItsDifferent pic.twitter.com/3IvIt3H1Ym— Children's Hospital Colorado (@ChildrensColo) March 15, 2022
Fox Sports analyst Mark Schlereth, who has called several of Wilson’s games over the years, recently relayed a story about Wilson’s detailed work ethic – how he goes to the lengths of creating fake players like “Sourdough Sam” to make sure his teammates were reading the scouting reports.
So it was on Wednesday when Wilson met the Denver media for the first time, his blockbuster deal official at 2 p.m. The press conference began at 2:03, with Wilson embracing this opportunity with purpose and optimism.
He waved his no-trade clause to come to the Broncos, so when he talked Wednesday it was with an educated voice, not a naïve interloper hoping his legacy would shine brighter merely from a change in zip code.
“I came here for one reason, and it’s to win. And that’s what I believe in,” Wilson said, leaving little doubt about his intent in Denver. “Broncos Country, let’s ride.”
Wilson gives the Broncos the type of player that gave them fits: an elite quarterback. He owns nine Pro Bowl berths, a Super Bowl ring, and a history of playing his best in the biggest moments.
In Seattle, he evolved from an offensive caretaker propped up by a running game and vicious Legion of Boom defense to a modern-day Roger Staubach, tasked for winning late after the fire alarm was pulled.
Paired with an offensive-minded coach, Nathaniel Hackett, for the first time in his career, Wilson sees endless possibilities.
“Russell Wilson. Holy sh---,” Hackett said in what might be the most quoted statement of a quote-worthy news conference.
"I don't think he said yes; I think he said, 'F yes,' very loud," added general manager George Paton.
Wilson said in his talks with Paton and Hackett, he felt like they were all on the same page about running the team and the offense.
By name, Wilson went through most of the starting offense, praising the strengths of the receivers, tight ends, and offensives line. He said he was excited to get to work with the offense and Hackett, as both said they would look to throw the deep ball.
And he said he will not be fazed by the competition in the AFC West, which is home to what might be the best crop of quarterbacks in any division in the NFL.
“I want to play against the best. I don’t fear anything, so I’m looking forward to it,” Wilson said. "...Winning is everything, and it's the only thing."
He added that he had already watched all 17 Broncos games from last season at least twice, as well as the preseason games.
Wilson, 33, did not sound like someone who will be looking for a trapdoor anytime soon. He has two years remaining on his contract – an extension is possible before this season or after – and views the Broncos as a long-term play.
He said he hopes to play for 10-12 more years, win 3-4 more Super Bowls, and finish his career in Denver – music to the ears of Broncos Country, which has withstood more than 10 starting quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired.
By most measures the Broncos represent the most improved team this offseason. They landed Wilson, which rushed them to the top of the rankings, then added edge rusher Randy Gregory, defensive tackle D.J. Jones, tight end Eric Tomlinson and kept linebacker Josey Jewell.
General manager George Paton said once the Broncos knew Wilson would be available, he was the team’s top target this offseason. Paton said Wilson possesses elite arm strength and accuracy, as well as “the best deep ball in the NFL.”
“He’s the best in the biggest moments. He’s the best at the end of the game to win it. His durability is unparalleled,” Paton said. “The thing that really sets Russell apart is he’s a winner.”
This feels like a team bent on making a U-turn after five straight losing seasons and six years without a playoff berth. With Wilson, they are in win-now and win-from-now mode.
Wilson said the first thing he wanted to do was build trust in the locker room and work on building up the team’s work ethic and communication.
He said he wanted the team to know that every time he calls a play in the huddle it could go to the house, and that starts with practice.
“Guys gotta be on their stuff in practice. It starts with the meetings, the practice, the weight room,” Wilson said. “That wild obsession with doing the little things right allows you to have the big moments. … How you really become great is the everyday, little steps. The little steps become the big ones.”
Wilson said he has felt a special connection with Denver since he was drafted by the Rockies and his father died the next day. He praised how the organization took care of him and how the community took him under his wing.
"Denver meant a lot over the years, but to know this was a winning football team — if I was going to waive my no-trade clause, I wanted it to be for a winning football team," he said.
Wilson brings a work ethic from the face of the franchise not seen since the days of Peyton Manning. Everything mattered to Manning, from the length of the cut of the grass to the number of practice reps. He held teammates accountable in a way that made them better. Now, Wilson walks into this space with a similar mindset, one that was obvious when he was taking extra swings as a Rockies minor leaguer and during his weekly practices in Seattle.
He does not fear walking into the shadow of a franchise defined by Hall of Fame quarterbacks John Elway and Manning. He embraces it.
"It's an honor, a tradition. That's the standard I have to bring every day," Wilson said, adding he would be picking the brains of both and learning more on the history of the game from them. "That's the only thing I know."
This is a developing news story and will be updated.