Tall task for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson
Draft pick Russell Wilson — not quite 5 feet, 11 inches tall — is one of four Seahawks quarterbacks fighting for jobs. Does he have a chance?
Seattle Times staff reporter
Scouting reportHeight: 5-10-5/8. Wt.: 206
Comment: Wilson's height is a concern but his arm is impressive. He has a high release, and as a receiver would say, he throws a great ball.
Russell Wilson filePosition: Quarterback
Notable: Wilson transferred from N.C. State to Wisconsin for his final season of college eligibility. He passed for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns with five interceptions, setting an NCAA record for passing efficiency while helping the Badgers reach the Rose Bowl.
RENTON — Russell Wilson stood out early on.
Wait. That's a poor choice of words considering all the fuss over Wilson's height — or more accurately his lack thereof — at 5 feet 11.
It's the size of his arm that was evident long before he became a four-year starter at quarterback, a baseball prospect in the Rockies organization or the Seahawks' third-round draft pick.
This was back when Wilson was in fifth, maybe sixth grade in Richmond, Va., serving as a ball boy for the high-school varsity team, and he left a referee waiting for the football in the middle of the field.
"For once in his life, Russell must not have been paying attention," said Charlie McFall, the coach at the Collegiate School.
Instead of running the ball out, Wilson threw it from the sidelines.
"He just chucked that ball out to him," McFall said. "I was like, 'Oooh, I'm going to hang around for this guy.' "
Smart move. The Collegiate School went 31-2 with Wilson at quarterback, and he played so well McFall heard insinuations he had recruited Wilson, which was kind of funny considering the Collegiate School runs kindergarten through 12th grade. McFall made a copy of the registration showing Wilson had been enrolled there since kindergarten.
And when Wisconsin's coaches came calling last year, trying to learn about the player who ended up quarterbacking the team to the Rose Bowl, his high-school coach provided the same scouting report he provides now that Wilson is in the NFL.
"I've never really seen or been around such a natural leader," McFall said. "He is who he is. There's no trying to be this or that."
The Seahawks have got themselves an American original, someone who is shorter than the prototype for his position but athletic enough to have been drafted in two sports and now comes to Seattle as the first quarterback drafted under coach Pete Carroll and the highest the franchise has picked a player at that position since selecting Rick Mirer No. 2 overall in 1993.
Defensive end Bruce Irvin was chosen two rounds earlier than Wilson in the draft, and linebacker Bobby Wagner may very well end up playing sooner, but it's Wilson whose every move is scrutinized.
Watching Wilson the first day of Seattle's three-day rookie minicamp that concludes Sunday, it's impossible not to get excited about the little guy with the big arm and wonder how soon he could become part of the quarterback competition with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson.
"Going to a new situation, I just feel comfortable," Wilson said after Friday's practice.
He's gotten plenty of practice. Not only has he switched between two sports in the previous two years, but he changed schools, transferring to Wisconsin last year from North Carolina State, where the coach had wanted him to stop playing pro baseball.
Wilson was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the 2010 draft. He began his minor-league career in Pasco, playing for the Rockies' Class A affiliate the Tri-Cities Dust Devils, where he batted .230 in 32 games. He hit .228 in 61 games for the Asheville Tourists last year, but by June decided to continue his football career. North Carolina State had released Wilson from his scholarship and because he'd already graduated, he was eligible to play at Wisconsin immediately.
"I think the transition going from N.C. State to Wisconsin, I think that definitely helped me," Wilson said.
Wilson was voted captain by his Wisconsin teammates four weeks after he arrived on campus, a confirmation of the first impression from coach Bret Bielema.
"Just the way he looked you in the eye," Bielema said. "His presence, his voice, the way he carries himself."
Wilson is about as athletic as you can get at quarterback. He was the second-fastest quarterback at this year's scouting combine, his 40-yard dash time better than everyone but Robert Griffin III, the No. 2 overall pick.
But Wilson is short. Let's just get that out of the way. He has not grown in the two weeks since Seattle drafted him, and he's not going to get any taller if he starts a game for the Seahawks.
He stands 5 feet 10 and five-eighths of an inch, and in a region that prides itself on the height of its forests, it's possible to make Wilson sound like a stump by qualifying any achievement by attaching his height.
Yes, he passed for more than 3,000 yards in three of his four collegiate seasons, but there's not a lot of history of success among quarterbacks who are shorter than 6 feet. Even Drew Brees is 6-1. Sure, Wilson was very impressive in his first two days of rookie minicamp, but that's a long way from proving he's good enough to win the football games that get played on Sundays.
On Friday, coach Pete Carroll was asked if there was any thought to putting lifts in Wilson's shoes. Carroll stayed mum.
"I tried not to react," he joked.
Don't overlook Wilson's other assets. His hands measure 10.25 inches from the tip of his pinky to thumb, which is actually bigger than Arizona State's Brock Osweiler, who stands 6-7 and was chosen by Denver in the second round.
And in terms of delivery, Wilson comes over the top, his release point much higher than most.
"He probably releases the ball higher than some guys 6-2 or 6-3," Bielema said.
Except Wilson is not quite 5-11.
"It's been an issue all along for him since he was a little kid," Carroll said the night Seattle drafted Wilson. "He's always been the smaller guy."
But Wilson has always made up for that with the size of his arm.
• Kavario Middleton, the former University of Washington and Lakes High School tight end, joined the Seahawks' rookie minicamp Saturday. He is participating on a tryout for a roster spot.
Danny O'Neil: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @dannyoneil.