Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks talks to Osi Umenyiora and Jason Bell
Russell Wilson hopes to say he was “a part of change” when he looks back at his NFL career.
The Seattle Seahawks quarterback, 32, was the first black quarterback to start in multiple Super Bowls and is in contention for this season’s Most Valuable Player award.
That inspired a generation of younger black quarterbacks and Wilson says it has been “a cool journey to see”.
“Hopefully I can say that I was part of something that changed the game,” he said. “That would be a great gift.”
Black players had been steered away from the sport’s most important ‘thinking’ position due to a process called ‘racial stacking’ – a racial prejudice that black players were better suited to the game’s more ‘athletic’ positionsexternal-link
But there are now more black quarterbacks in the NFL than ever before, with 10 starters at the beginning of the season.
Wilson has also overcome being stereotyped because of his height. At 5ft 11in, he is the shortest quarterback to start and win a Super Bowl.
The average height for an NFL quarterback is 6ft 3in.
“To be a black quarterback playing this game at 5ft 11in, it’s very rare,” Wilson told The NFL Show.
“For me to step up, step in and win a Super Bowl in my second year, I think it inspired other people.
“I think it inspired players but ultimately it also inspired coaches, GMs [general managers] and owners to say ‘you know what, there’s some other great athletes out there, quarterbacks that can play’.
“When I look back at it in 30, 40, 50 years from now, hopefully I can say that I was a part of change.”
‘No such thing as a day off’
Wilson was drafted 75th in the 2012 draft but beat off competition from 2011 starter Tarvaris Jackson and free agent signing Matt Flynn to become their starter for 2012.
Since then, he has started every single game for the Seahawks, leading them to victory at Super Bowl 48 and back to the NFL’s championship game the year after.
“The Seattle Seahawks had just another quarterback, Matt Flynn,” Wilson added. “They paid him quite a bit of money.
“I came in as a third-round pick, 75th overall. People said I couldn’t do it, so I came in with the mentality that one, I’ve got to earn my job, earn my position; second, I’ve got to earn my career. There’s no such thing as a day off.
“Somebody asked me: ‘How many days do you work on your fitness, work on your mind?’ and I said ‘how many days that I don’t?!’ To me, that’s the real question.
“It’s a 365-day lifestyle.”
‘I have all the confidence in the world’
Wilson celebrates with Will Dissly after the tight end scored a 10 yard touchdown in the win over the New York Jets
Wilson has been famed for his ability to perform ‘in the clutch’ – in the closing stages when the game is on the line.
Since coming into the league, he has led more game-winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime than any other quarterback.
“I tell myself ‘I’m here’,” he says. “Being right there in that moment, with my feet on the ground, my eyes wide open and ready to roll, I have all the confidence in the world.
“And the other thing I’m telling myself is ‘I know they know too’. Any time you want to be great, you can’t fear those circumstances. And I don’t fear them, I look forward to them.”
After suffering a shock loss to the New York Giants early this month, the Seahawks took it out on the other side from the Big Apple with a 40-3 beatdown of the winless New York Jets last weekend.
Seattle have a 9-4 record with three weeks of the regular season remaining and Russell feels the key to maintaining focus is to stay level-headed when results don’t go the team’s way.
“I always talk about this concept of neutral thinking,” he said. “I don’t get too high, I don’t get too low.
“The reality is, whenever you want to be great at anything, there are going to be challenges along the way that are going to bump you down.
“If you climb to the top of the mountain, you may slip a couple of times, so the question is: keep climbing – that’s my mentality. I’m always going to keep climbing.”
Young is an ‘unbelievable talent’
Chase Young recorded a sack, two passes defended, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery which he returned 47 yards for a touchdown in the win over San Francisco
The Seahawks head to Washington on Sunday and, for quarterback Wilson, there is one player in particular in the Washington defensive line that stands out.
“Chase Young has been unreal,” said Wilson. “I’ve seen him tear up my Wisconsin Badgers for years. He’s as good as it gets.”
Defensive end Young is in his rookie season in the NFL and put in a strong performance in Washington’s victory over the San Francisco 49ers last time out.
Wilson added: “He’s strong, he’s fast, he’s got explosiveness. For him just to be a rookie, he doesn’t look like one; he prepares like a [veteran].
“He does everything the right way and it’s really cool to see these really young stars of the game.
“He’s a special, special player and an unbelievable talent. Hopefully we can slow him down a little bit! He’s really, really good.”
Watch the full interview with Russell Wilson on The NFL Show on Saturday, 19 December at 23:35 GMT on BBC One and the BBC iPlayer.