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Originally published Friday, January 16, 2015 at 1:00 AM

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Why Seahawks’ Russell Wilson’s routine allows him to thrive

The way Russell Wilson prepares for those pressure-soaked situations is by first preparing so rigidly for the moments that seemingly mean far less: the early-season practices, the preseason games, the October game against another middling team.


Seattle Times staff reporter

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In the wake of the biggest moment of his career to date, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson leaned over to Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw.

“I’ve got a question for you,” he said in a video shown on the TV show “Inside the NFL.”

Bradshaw won four Super Bowls in his playing career, and Wilson, in just his second season at the time, was about to get the chance to win his first. The Seahawks had beaten the 49ers in last season’s NFC Championship Game only a few minutes earlier, but already Wilson’s gaze had turned elsewhere.

“What do we need to do to win it that’s different?” Wilson said. “What makes you win it?”

“You’ve got to be really cool,” Bradshaw responded. “Don’t let the moment catch up with you. You’ve got to play the game down. If you build it up, it’s so important you’ll screw it up and you won’t play well. It’s not just another game, believe me, but you can make it one. Just be cool.”

Two weeks later, Wilson played one of the best games of his career in the Super Bowl, completing 72 percent of his passes, throwing for 206 yards and tossing two touchdowns. At one point in the Super Bowl, Wilson looked at his teammates in the huddle and told them to stay focused. There were three minutes left in a 35-point blowout.

What his exchange with Bradshaw hints at is what lies inside Wilson, an adherence to routine that allows him to seize the big moments. Wilson’s numbers in the playoffs are impressive — completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 1,364 yards and nine touchdowns compared to one interception in six games — and even more so considering he barely threw the ball in horrific weather conditions against the Saints last year.

“Sometimes I think I’m made for these situations,” Wilson said after Saturday’s playoff win against the Panthers.

But the way Wilson prepares for those pressure-soaked situations is by first preparing so rigidly for the moments that seemingly mean far less: the early-season practices, the preseason games, the October game against a middling team. By treating those situations as equals, Wilson does the very thing that Bradshaw instructed: Don’t let the moment catch up with you. You’ve got to play the game down.

“He approaches each play as the play,” said Dana Bible, his offensive coordinator for four seasons at North Carolina State. “When you approach it that way, emotionally and preparation-wise, there’s no difference.”

The first time Wilson sat next to Warren Moon on a plane after a game during Wilson’s rookie season in 2012, Moon, the Hall of Fame quarterback and Seahawks’ broadcaster, was flattered. But Moon quickly came to learn something about the Seahawks’ young quarterback: Almost every time the two talked, Wilson was doing one of two things: He was asking for feedback, or he was talking about big games.

Moon admits that Wilson has been more inconsistent this season, but when he judges him, he keeps circling back to one point: Wilson has largely succeeded in the defining moments of games or the season.

“He loves those moments,” Moon said after the Panthers’ game. “Has he been successful in every one of them? No. Did Michael Jordan hit every game-winning shot? No. But he wins more of them than he loses, and that’s because he likes it. And he lives for it.”

Wilson’s preparation habits and diligence have nearly become the stuff of legend. Wilson’s hard work emerges from a fear of not being prepared, a rare admission for such a guarded player.

“That’s my biggest fear in life,” Wilson said. “That’s my only fear, really.”

He grew up learning how to visualize success, but the root of that comes from the long, tedious hours spent talking with coaches or inside the quarterbacks’ room watching film.

“That’s where he gets his comfort zone from,” said running back Robert Turbin.

But more than the hours he puts in is the way he’s able to process the information he gathers. One of his coaches once compared him to a computer because he could absorb large vats of data during the week and boil it down to the essential information in the chaos of games.

The ability to do that week in and week out, to be consistent with his effort and emotions, allows him to be ready when the lights are the brightest and the games matter most.

“Those are the guys who are special because they can go through that process and make it happen in a reasonable timeframe,” Bible said. “They get it. That is what it is called. We’ve all heard of it, but when you can do that, you’ve got it. That’s it.”

Russell Wilson in the postseason
WIlson is entering his seventh playoff game.
Statistic
Record5-1
Completion pct.63.8%
TD passes/ Interceptions9/1
Rushing TDs1
Avg. yards gained per rush attempt5.79
Avg. yards gained per pass attempt8.97
Sacked0
QB rating109.6
Source: pro-football-reference.com

Jayson Jenks: 206-464-8277 or jjenks@seattletimes.com



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