I grew up playing soccer until I entered the 4th grade. I was a striker and could fly. I had a prominent future in soccer; had I stuck with it. Something happened in the fall of 3rd grade during the Seahawks 2003 campaign. They caught my eye with a playoff appearance. If I remember correctly, the game went into overtime and ending in heartbreaking fashion as my new role model through a pick-6 to give Green Bay the victory.
The reason that I boasted my soccer abilities was because I understood that I was good and I was passionate about the game, but the Seahawks lit an incendiary device within me that would change my direction and life ultimately. To be honest, I can name few names from that 2003 team outside of Hasselbeck and a young rookie: Marcus Trufant. While quarterbacks, backed by immeasurable amounts of fame, were household names; young, passionate players like Marcus Trufant were the ones that I grew attached to.
I started off on the defensive side of the ball playing middle linebacker all the way until the 7th grade. However, having played baseball since I can remember, and a strong knowledge of the game, I decided I could provide more at the quarterback position. And let me tell you this: It was an uphill battle that I had no idea I was going to have to overcome. In the 8th grade, I was a mere 5 foot 4 and was overlooked at the position and moved to tight end in favor of a quarterback who was 4 inches taller than me even though I out performed him in every way. In a preseason Jamboree, I had thrown two touchdowns and was sitting out as the coach wanted to try out the other quarterback. He performed so poorly that my uncle came running down to the fence ready to kick my ass into gear. Well, he was going to until he realized that the other kid was playing quarterback. Of course, pee wee coaches are ignorant and stubborn minded fellows, right? Well yes, but the doubt of my size did not stop there. I played 4 years of high school football, starting for the Hazen Highlanders (out of Renton) at quarterback for 2 of them at 5 foot 11(I spent my sophomore year on varsity as a backup to a very good senior as well). I was even given a few scholarship offers after my senior season. However, every year, the several members of the coaching staff doubted me and showed a lack of confidence in me because of my size as they tried out taller teammates at the position. I had some shoulder issues also, and a broken foot my junior season but managed to rebound from all of those to still be an All League Honorable Mention Quarterback. The reason I give this story is because the universal doubt of a short quarterback starts way before the NFL. It is embedded in the minds of every single person who has heard of football. It is a mainstream thought that some are afraid to counter because of idiotic groupthink.
And although Russell Wilson had far more talent than I ever did, the doubt associated with height caught up to him as well. It started during recruiting for college as he was pegged as just a two star recruit despite his incredible skill-sets. While he deserved much more due to his undeniable ability and daunting work ethic, his height knocked him down a peg and he ended up at North Carolina State University. Well, you know that he flourished in college and ended up at Wisconsin where he should have won the Heisman but didn't likely due to his height and the fact that it caused him to be seen as an average NFL prospect. Pick number 75 came around in the 2012 NFL Draft, drafted after five quarterbacks, and five picks after a punter, he ended up with a team that desperately needed a quarterback (I was hugely against the idea of Flynn after seeing all of the other backup quarterbacks who have flopped in starter roles as of late. i.e.: see Cassell and Kevin Kolb). And, well, here we are, just two years later on the biggest stage; led by none other than the hobbit quarterback himself as his quest to have the ring continues.
Yet still, I often hear people tell me that Russell Wilson is just an exception. That 5 foot 11 quarterbacks really cannot make it in this league. When I ask why, they pull out old, expired, conventional wisdom and tell me that he can't see behind his lineman, that he will get hurt because he isn't big enough, that just because one person does it doesn't mean its going to be possible for others. I've heard over and over from people even here in Seattle that Russell Wilson won't last.
Allow me to counter. I was always undersized playing football and often went up against defensive lines where half of the guys outsized me by at least 5 inches and 100 pounds. The offensive line in front of me was all at least 4 inches taller than me. My girlfriend would tell me after games, "It's so cute how you're the smallest one out there". Yet, I managed to lead my team to the playoffs. I managed to lead my team to victories over top 10 teams in the state. I managed to win a game playing at Century Link Field during my Junior year of High School. I had some big time moments as a small sized quarterback.
But how does that happen? Because only the tall, lanky quarterbacks are supposed to be able to throw a good ball, right? It happened because although I was short, I compensated for it with other strengths like my scrambling ability much like Russell Wilson does. I was able to throw slants over the middle because believe it or not, there are windows between the linemen's heads where you can see downfield. I was used to being small, and so everyday my game had that factor in it and I made an adjustment early on to it. This correlates very strongly with the stories that I have read on Russell Wilson. And while he had a much stronger work ethic than I (and I felt I had a very good one) and much more talent, the similarities were there.
Size matters, yes. But it should be a very small factor in evaluating a quarterback. Having grown up as a shorter quarterback, I know that you make adjustments to compensate for the lack of height and that i was more proficient at the position than many guys who were five inches taller than me. Of course size matters, but what matters more are the throwing ability of a quarterback, the head on his shoulders, and the leadership in his heart.
Which brings me to my next thought that I would like to touch on considering the recent media circus around the team: Different personalities within an organization. It seemed that in High School, my coaches were always trying to make my teammates and I into a cookie cutter mold of a leader. While it is a passable strategy and can work with mild success, it really is a regressive strategy in my mind. It takes away individuality and freedom reducing the morale of a team. He never really achieved his goal, and what we ended up having was a pretty good mesh for the most part. We had my All-State lineman buddy who would scream his head off at practice to get a message across, we had the guy who would gently and constructively criticize and nudge along the other players, we had Tom Cable's son who brought the attitude of his perennial state championship in Georgia with him, and we had me. There were a lot more personalities but these are the ones that I want to focus on as they relate strongly to the Hawks (Go Hawks!). Starting with the All-State lineman. He was far and away the best player on this team and was a captain for two years. He wasn't always yelling, though. He spent a lot of time trying to build younger players by helping them along but when he got upset it was a lot of verbal ass kicking. I would not be surprised if any of the Seahawks get like that from time to time, especially perhaps Tom Cable. One of my other long time friends was much more a Russell Wilson type person in his leadership qualities. He was the type of kid who was always politically correct and I think that it is good to have that on your team. It gives others a good perception of your team and also appeals to the personalities of some of the players. Russell Wilson garners a ton of respect from the team because he is a genuinely good guy, much like my friend. The attitude which came from the son of an NFL coach was probably the one I felt most impacted our team to be honest. He was the heart of our defense because of the animosity he brought to the field every day. His swagger was unwavering and he acted with raw passion. Our coaches didn't always like it because he would get a little wild from time to time, but I believe that it was the single most important attitude for a football team to adopt. There is a reason that there are so many players on the Seahawks like this. From Bam Bam Kam, to Richard Sherman, to Golden Tate, to Angry Dougie Fresh, and to many more, the Seahawks are full of these players. Unpredictable players who's raw passion is an incendiary device for their teammates. And then there are guys like Marshawn,Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, etc. who allow their play to do the talking for them. I always felt that I fit that mold more so. I was actually pulled off of my football team's leadership squad because I wasn't a vocal teammate at practice. But I refused to be because that wasn't me and I firmly believed that for me, at least, that I could let my actions speak for themselves and lead by example.
There are many different ways to be a strongly productive and progressive personality on a team and the fact that the media tries to deny so many of them is appalling and why I hate mainstream media so much. Pete Carroll recognizes that diversity of personalities is important, the 12th man does, and so should the world.
I really appreciate anyone who took the time to read this elongated thought of mine and I hope that you understand that I tried to draw parallels between the Hawks and my own experiences so that I could strengthen my viewpoint. Go Hawks and let's go get our first Lombardi!