All we really need from Russell Wilson is touchdown passes, not another sermon. Absent victories for the Broncos, what we want to see is more of the man and less of the brand.
Behind the rockstar sunglasses, there’s a quarterback that likes the old-school R&B groove of “Easy” by the Commodores. And that Russ is a lot easier to cheer for than a robot that does high knees in the aisle of the team plane. Behind that Mr. Unlimited alter ego, there’s a 33-year-old guy that still rises before dawn every day to do his late father proud. That’s cool.
In the middle of last week, he took to Twitter, posting a photo to celebrate the birthday of the king in his crowd, Harrison Wilson III, his father, who passed away in November 2010 at age 55.
“He always believed in encouraging rather than discouraging. He always painted a vision and never tried to blur the vision. He always gave me a picture of where I could be,” Wilson said.
“I think the sign of a good father is somebody that even in the midst of your doubts as a young kid (with) your questions, your wonders or your dreams, (he’s) able to paint a better picture of you that you could even imagine.”
OK, the future is not unlimited. But give imagination and ambition a bigger frame and let a kid fill it with so many dreams that some will come true. What Harrison Wilson III did was make a child believe that boundaries exist to be pushed.
With a 3-6 record and only six touchdown passes in his first nine games as quarterback of the Broncos, an athlete that signed a $245 million contract extension is going to get grief, especially when Wilson draws a smiley face on every loss.
But the best chance for Denver to beat the Titans on Sunday and get on a roll in the second half of the season is because Wilson’s father never allowed a kid to hide under the covers with his doubts. That was Harrison Wilson’s definition of tough love.
“He woke me up early in the morning quite often. ‘Let’s go!’ is all he would say. Next thing you knew, he would be in the car waiting. Shortly after, I’d try to catch up, beat him and race him to the car. I think that taught me that you have to get up early in the mornings and beat the sun in the morning every day,” Wilson said.
Wilson, as we all know, thinks sleep is a waste of time. Is that a trait imbued in his DNA by his father?
“He’s part of the reason,” Wilson said. “But the main reason I don’t sleep is because there’s so much to do. There’s only 24 hours in a day, so how are we going to capitalize on those 24?”
When Wilson shows a hint of snarl in his ever-present smile, as he did when firing back at Seahawks coach Pete Carroll about the QB’s reluctance to wear play calls on a wristband in Seattle, he seems more human.
But the outsized ambition and relentless positivity won’t go away, because those traits were instilled by a father that not only played football and baseball at Dartmouth but later became the president of Norfolk State University in Virginia.
“I was fortunate to have a dad that raised me, challenged me, pushed me, taught me, read to me, asked me questions and gave me a vision. My mom, too. Both of them,” Wilson said.
“My dad worked late nights just to make sure I could have a chance to be here today. A guy who, in the toughest days, when he had diabetes and his leg amputated, he snuck out of the hospital just to see me play. He hopped on a Greyhound, drove all the way to the N.C. State versus (North Carolina) football game just to see me play. I had a dad that showed me tremendous courage and never blinked in the midst of the storm.”
Yes, sometimes I bristle when Wilson frames his life as a series of Instagram moments and talks in platitudes so rich that they can leave a cheesy after-taste.
But I also thank Harrison Wilson III for raising a son that’s unafraid to live with unabashed passion for his vision and total commitment to his goals.
“When he passed away, I realized that the sun still comes up in the morning,’’ Wilson said.
“No matter what we go through in life, the good, the bad, the indifferent, people are talking about you. Good, bad, indifferent, highs and lows, in business, life, career, whatever it may be. You never know. The best thing you can do is love at the fullest every day.”