What Seattle Seahawks’ QB Russell Wilson Teaches Me about Leadership, Dignity and Humility
The Seattle Seahawks played their first game of the regular 2012 NFL season on September 9th at Arizona. Coming off of four wins in preseason and a surprising announcement that rookie Russell Wilson had won the competition for starting QB, expectations were high going in to the game. Coming out of the game, statistics for the two teams, except for asymmetry in rushing and passing, were surprisingly close. With replacement officials, several of the calls in the game were questionable, favoring both sides back and forth. There were some excellent plays – kick returns by Leon Washington and Richard Sherman making what seemed like a nearly impossible interception, and even the long snapper, Clint Gresham getting in on the action with a textbook tackle at a critical point. The game came down to the last drive when Seattle had several chances to go ahead, and despite aggressive play by Wilson and his receivers, Seattle lost.
It was a disappointing loss. It gave those who didn’t agree with the surprising QB competition decision ample chance to sound off about how Coach Carroll should reconsider and put the more experienced veteran Matt Flynn into the position. It was difficult to imagine how any new quarterback would be able to do what Coach Carroll expects of his team: put it behind him so he could focus on the next week.
And then, two days after losing the first game of his NFL QB career, on September 11, the rookie QB posts a string of pix from a visit to Seattle Children’s Hospital on twitter. Like this one. And this one. And this one. A picture of a “cool kid”. In one of the picture captions, Wilson says meeting with these kids puts life into perspective. It doesn’t look like a typical Seahawks-sponsored community event. There’s no Blitz, or the SeaGals, not a big group of the players, just the brand new Seattle QB talking one-on-one to kids at the hospital. And then, on Sept 12th, Wilson tweeted, “Brand new day! Time to attack the day with great energy and passion!”
When I saw those pix, I didn’t care about the score anymore. What I was seeing was that the young guy that worked so hard to present himself well in the hopes of winning the Seattle QB position is a human being of tremendous compassion and humility. And there was no doubt in my mind he knew how to put that loss behind him.
That was week one, and the day was September 11. Maybe not so much of a surprise that a young man of faith and passion, on whom good fortune had just smiled broadly (well, except for the loss…), would choose to do something honorable and compassionate and positive.
Fast forward two weeks. After beating the famed Dallas Cowboys soundly in week 2, the Seahawks were at home to play the Green Bay Packers in week 3 on Monday Night Football. In the first half, the Seahawk defense stunned the football world by bringing down legendary Aaron Rodgers in an astonishing eight sacks, and held the Packers scoreless. The offense, however, struggled. And throughout the game, both teams fought to make sense of bad officiating by gentlemen who had been asked to perform beyond their professional competence; both teams tried to play to the best of their abilities within the constraints of inadequate officiating. As in game 1, where the Seahawks defense was performing at the highest levels, the offense – under the leadership of Russell Wilson – struggled. As in week 1, the game came down to the last minutes, and ultimately down to the last eight seconds and one classic Hail Mary pass into the end zone. This time, the game came down to the last play requiring NFL officials with wisdom, experience and instantaneous judgment to make the difficult determination as to the outcome of the play. Unfortunately, the replacement officials had demonstrated throughout the game that as a group, they came up short on the needed wisdom, experience and ability to make an accurate and instantaneous judgment. Seattle got the call, and the win, and set off a firestorm reaction unprecedented in recent NFL history.
The firestorm that erupted following the outcome of the hard fought game sucked the joy out of the win for the Seahawk fans, and surely the players. The anger and disappointment that so many NFL players and fans had against the replacement officials blew up in the media and on twitter. In addition to the anger that was hurled upon the NFL and the replacement officials responsible for the call, many of those who were disappointed turned their anger and frustration on the Seahawks, particularly Golden Tate and the rookie QB, Russell Wilson, as if they had done anything more than played stunningly aggressive football until the last second ticked off the clock. As an enthusiastic Seahawk fan, it was hard for me to hear and see all the disappointment and frustration thrown at these young men whose only only objective was to play good, hard-hitting, compete-to-the-end football. If I were one of the players, I don’t know how I would get my head straight to be able to focus on next week. I can’t even imagine how the rookie QB Russ Wilson could shake the effects of this win that seemed to have come at the cost of so much hatefulness. How could he possibly put the emotions of this game, this WIN, behind him so that he could focus on next week and do what he needed to do to get better, smarter and stronger?
So it’s Tuesday, ESPN is still raging, the debate is all over the media. And then I see this tweet from Wilson: “Thanks to all these amazing nurses for taking care of these sweet young kids @seattlechildren’s hospital!” and a picture. And another one, “Such a special and vibrant girl! Truly an inspiration for me.” And “All smiles from this sweet young girl.” And a photo with Aiden, “Wow is he a @seahawks fan!” Again, no Blitz, no SeaGals, … just a remarkable young man getting his head right, looking forward – and holding a clinic on humility, dignity, and leadership. For one enthusiastic Seahawk fan at least, all the anger and hatefulness being thrown around over the Seattle/Green Bay game and the decision just vaporizes.
Thanks, Russell Wilson, starting QB for the Seattle Seahawks. #respect #pride