Which explains why at Collegiate School’s pre-season football practice Monday, a heightened sense of adrenaline seemed to course the air, especially with current starting quarterback and big-time college prospect Wilton Speight.
“Everyone in the Collegiate and Richmond Community knew that he had it in him,” said Speight, who will be a junior at Collegiate.
Wilson played at Collegiate from 2003 to 2006, earning numerous statewide honors and a scholarship to North Carolina State for his performance. He then transferred to Wisconsin for his senior season and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.
His path from All-State quarterback to NFL starter began here in Richmond, with Coach Charlie McFall.
“Didn't surprise me,” said McFall about hearing that Wilson was as named Seattle’s starter on Sunday.
McFall was Wilson’s head coach at Collegiate when college scouts came calling. McFall said many of them wanted Wilson to play defense because of his size, but McFall knew Wilson had the skill set and manner of a big-time quarterback.
“He has the confidence that it takes at that level, he has the confidence at any level. When the chips get down, he's ready for the pressure,” said McFall.
Wilson returned to Richmond on a regular basis to conduct youth camps aimed at getting young Richmonders into the game.
"A lot of young guys will look up to Russell as a real role mentor,” said McFall.
“Last year when I broke my collarbone, he reached out to me a couple times,” said Speight about Wilson, who was in Heisman Trophy contention as the quarterback for the Wisconsin Badgers at the time.
McFall is now the Athletic Director at Collegiate and coaches the junior varsity squad.
As the preseason has unfolded, the Seahawks leaned closer and closer to naming the undersized Wilson, who at 5’11” stands much shorter than the average NFL quarterback, as their starter.
But McFall knew why Wilson would get to this point even before the NFL figured it out.
“I've never seen anybody with the leadership skills. He makes everybody around him better,” said McFall. “We're all Seahawks fans out here now.”
The Seahawks drafted the Richmond-area native in the third round of April’s NFL draft.
“It’s been a very exciting competition that’s gone on, and Russell has taken full advantage of his opportunities and done everything we could ask for on the field,” Seahawks Head Coach Pete Carroll said on seahawks.com.“ And more you guys can know, what he’s done off the field in meeting rooms and with our players and how he’s represented himself, he’s earned this job.”