Russell Mania Returns

The third of five stops for the Russell Wilson Passing Academy, former Badgers quarterback Russell Wilson returns to Wisconsin this weekend with the goal of inspiring a whole new generation.

MADISON - By his own admission, Russell Wilson has always been a man with a plan.

He had a set plan when he went through a pair of college recruiting processes, when he got an opportunity to compete in the NFL and how he attacks his offseason workouts to continue being a team leader in just his second season.

So it's no surprise that the vision to start his own football camp came in his junior year … of high school.

"I wanted to put these camps together for these kids one day when I play in the NFL," said Wilson, who came up with the idea with his childhood friend, now his camp's chief business officer. "We mapped out the whole idea, planned it out … As soon as I got to the pros, that's the first thing I said I wanted to do, and it's been a great hit so far."

Wilson's first camp in high school had approximately 125 kids in it but thanks to corporate sponsors, college football alumni helping him out and his own name recognition, Wilson is expecting around 1,400 campers to participate in this year's Russell Wilson Passing Academy camps in five different cities.

"I wanted to make the biggest, baddest camp ever," he said.

Wilson's goal with the RWPA is to provide inner-city and underprivileged youths an opportunity to attend his camps to make them better football players and better people. The Wisconsin campus was Wilson's third of five stops, all of which hold special meaning to him.

He's already had camps in his home town of Richmond, Va.; in Raleigh, N.C., where he began his college career and will finish in Spokane, Wa., (where he played minor league baseball for two years) and Seattle.

"If I can change one of those kids' lives, inspire one of those, kids that makes a difference and goes a long way," said Wilson. "I think that's the biggest thing; the thing I try to focus on, teaching them the fundamentals, the character aspect of things, how to live, how to act and how to be disciplined.

"The biggest thing as a pro athlete is being discipline; discipline as a college student, a high school student. I think that's what keeps you success in life."

There's no question that Wilson has used his camp's model to be successful in his own right.

Starting 14 games for the Badgers during his one season on campus in 2011, Wilson led Wisconsin to extraordinary heights. Transferring from North Carolina State to Wisconsin in late June, Wilson finished the season with 33 passing touchdowns, set the school's single season record, and finished with 39 touchdowns accounted for.

He also set the single season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8), was a unanimous first-team All-Big Ten selection, the conference's quarterback of the year and led the Badgers to a second straight Big Ten championship.

Despite being in the city a little over six months, Wilson still says his one year at Wisconsin meant ‘everything' to him.

"Just to be able to come here and be welcomed here, meet new people in a place that I never truly honestly thought I would see myself being here," said Wilson. "It was just an honor. Great school, great coaching staff and great players."

That's one of the reasons players like Montee Ball, Bradie Ewing, David Gilreath, Shelton Johnson and Kevin Zeitler were all wearing blue camp T-shirts and helping put the approximately 220 campers through drills Saturday afternoon while Wilson migrated around the McClain Center.

"The guys were fired up to come here," said Wilson. "We're going to try to make it a yearly tradition to have a reunion with the Wisconsin Badger guys."

A third-round pick in the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson signed a four-year, $2.99 million contract with Seattle and was named the team's starting quarterback out of training camp. He responded by leading the Seahawks to an 11-5 regular season record and the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.

"To have an amazing season, we didn't accomplish what we want to accomplish and that's win the Super Bowl and win the NFC West," said Wilson, who was selected to the Pro Bowl after throwing for 3,118 yards and tying Peyton Manning's record with 26 touchdown passes by a rookie.

"Now it's on to a new year, and this year's challenges are going to be a lot different. You just have to continue to grow and learn from the lessons you've had in the past."

One of those lessons was the ending of the 2012 Rose Bowl when Wilson and Wisconsin's offense was one second late in getting off the snap at the Oregon 25-yard line, causing time to expire and allow the Ducks to win 45-38.

Wilson says he thinks about that play all the time when he sees someone from Oregon (which happens frequently in the Pacific Northwest) and when former Badgers quarterback/Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell reminds him of his Rose Bowl triumph in 1994.

"That's just how football is," said Wilson. "When you are playing at a high level of football, you have to be precise on every play. There are going to be plays when you win some and lose some."

Wilson's work ethic hasn't diminished despite his skyrocketing NFL success. He said his offseason has been focused on improving his footwork, continuing to develop his poise in the pocket and grow as a player in key situations.

And while he may have silenced criticism that a sub 6-foot quarterback couldn't compete in the NFL, Wilson, just like he did at Wisconsin, only focuses on what he can do to make those around him better.

"I don't think you ever silence criticisms," said Wilson. "LeBron James has won two championships and he's still getting criticized. I haven't done anything yet. When you think about it that way, there are still a lot of things I have to accomplish.

"I am never satisfied. I never worry about the critics. I ignore the noise. I just focus on the things you can control, stay in the moment and try to get better."


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