Little League Alumni Spotlight: Russell Wilson – Super Bowl Champion and Proud Little League® Grad
In his three seasons with the Seattle Seahawks, Russell Wilson has never ended a season after just 16 regular season games. In his rookie year, he helped his team make it to the Divisional Round of the playoffs, and in 2013, he combated any talk of a sophomore slump, leading the Seahawks to a victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. This year, Mr. Wilson is back in the playoffs, facing the Carolina Panthers on Saturday, January 10.
While Wilson is dedicated to football, baseball is his escape. Playing at Tuckahoe Little League outside of Richmond, Va. Mr. Wilson is just one of many notable graduates from this successful local league which has sent a team to the Little League Baseball® World Series three times, in 1968, 1976, and 1993. Detroit Tigers’ pitcher Justin Verlander is also a graduate of Tuckahoe Little League.
Mr. Wilson, 26, was a standout baseball player in Little League and beyond. He has been selected in the Major League Baseball draft three times. At North Carolina State University, he was on both the football and baseball teams, from 2008 to 2010. He then transferred to the University of Wisconsin in 2011. In 2012, he heard his name during a draft again, this time, it was the Seattle Seahawks calling.
In 2013, the Texas Rangers acquired Wilson, and it is anticipated that he will be invited to Spring Training again this year. His passion for Little League and enhancing the lives of boys and girls through sports make him the epitome of a Little League graduate.
Little League: You played your Little League days at one of the most well-known leagues in the United States. What was it like playing in a league that has had so much success and produced athletes like Verlander?
Russell Wilson: It was a blast. It was where everyone went when they were a kid; from the time they were five to when they were 14, 15 years old. We were there every weeknight. The culture at the league was just unbelievable. We had great teams, great players, and great coaches. They taught us how to play the game the right way.
LL: How did your Little League days shape your career as a professional athlete?
RW: I think Little League really taught me about competition and how to approach a challenge. You have to sacrifice to be great at something. The summers I spent playing Little League really got me ready for those future challenges.
LL: What is your favorite Little League memory from your playing days?
RW: I would have to say just being on all-star teams. It’s not just one or two games, but really putting on that hat and seeing the stars on it.
LL: What do you like most about playing baseball?
RW: It’s really the first sport that I played and loved. I’ve been playing since I was 3, 4 years old. There’s just something about the control you feel when you take the mound, or making some crazy plays at shortstop. I love to go watch games. It’s just a timeless sport.
LL: What made you decide to take the offer from the Texas Rangers to join them at Spring Training in 2014?
RW: It’s really a blessing to be drafted. I’ve been drafted three times, first by the Orioles, then the Rockies, and then this opportunity with the Rangers came up, and I figured I would give it a shot. When General Manager, Jon Daniels gave me a call to tell me about the deal, I just got a huge smile on my face. So, I took the opportunity to take some ground balls and have some fun. Football is my career focus and the most important to me right now. But, I had a lot of fun out there. It was just natural for me to be back on the baseball field. The Rangers organization is first-rate, and championship focused, which is something that is very important to me.
LL: You are an ardent supporter of the Kirkland National Little League outside of Seattle. Why is it important to you to give back to local Little Leagues?
RW: For me, the Russell Wilson Passing Academy is one of my passions, and we travel from Richmond to Seattle to Vancouver to other cities throughout the United States to work with kids and help inspire them to be great. And we really want to help make a difference in Little League, too, which is why the Passing Academy doesn’t just sponsor a team, but supports Kirkland National Little League as a whole.
I am most involved with the Braves team, and try to get there as much as I can to have a positive impact on the Little Leaguers and promote a healthy lifestyle. The coaches on our team do a great job, and I think it’s inspiring for the players to see me out there and help teach them to love the game.
LL: What’s the one piece of advice that you would give kids playing Little League today?
RW: The first is that to be successful you have to have great drive. You also need to have the ambition to be successful.
And you need to have the right attitude. When you go watch Little League games, you’re watching young men and women grow up while playing sports. My father always told me to never be too up and never be too down. You have to be even keeled. Once you’ve learned how to do that, you are poised for success. If you strikeout, so what. Everyone strikes out. If you hit a home run, act like you’ve been there before.
LL: How has your life changed since you won the Super Bowl?
RW: It really hasn’t changed at all. I’m still working to prepare myself to have success; to win football games, and continue to improve and grow myself. Nothing has really changed, though.
LL: What are your goals for this year and the next five years?
RW: My goal is to make every year a championship year. By that I mean having a championship mindset, which hopefully means winning championships.