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QB Wilson won’t sell himself short

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Bob McGinn, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
February 28, 2012
— The way Russell Wilson sees it, he’s battling for all those people in all walks of life who have been told they can’t do something.

“I believe the Lord put me on this earth to show tons and tons of kids across the world that anything’s possible,” Wilson, the former Wisconsin All-American, said over the weekend at the NFL combine.


“You know, I’m a 5-11 quarterback, but I believe I can make every single throw. Hopefully, I won’t be done playing for another 15 years or so. Hopefully, I’ll be a Pro Bowler. Who knows? Hopefully, a Super Bowl winner. And after I’m done playing I’d love to be a head coach or general manager.”


First, Wilson must establish a toehold in the National Football League. Given the fact that he was measured at 5-feet-10 5/8 inches at both the Senior Bowl and the combine, he will have to convince a team that his height can be overcome.


Currently, the only NFL active quarterback under 6-0 is Seneca Wallace, the backup in Cleveland. In 2003, he measured 5-11½, weighed 196 pounds and ran 40 yards in 4.54 seconds. In nine seasons, Wallace has started 21 games and posted a passer rating of 81.3.


Wilson weighed in at 204 and ran the 40 in 4.50 on Sunday.


In three of the previous four drafts, the shortest of the top 20 quarterbacks stood an even 6-1. In 2009, Pat White (now out of football) and Chase Daniel (backup in New Orleans) were the shortest at 6-0.


In the 2007 draft, Ohio State’s Troy Smith (6-0, 223, 4.83) was the shortest.


Wilson is a huge admirer of the Saints’ Drew Brees. Before the 2001 draft, Brees was 6-0, 213, and ran 4.85.


Although Wilson says, “Honestly, I believe the height’s not a factor at all,” some NFL teams wouldn’t even consider taking a quarterback that height.


“Somebody will take him in the third or fourth round, but I could not,” an executive in personnel for an AFC team said. “There’s just no way. I know some people that really like him. He’s going to get overdrafted.”


On Sunday morning, Wilson completed 29 of 38 passes (four were dropped) to an assortment of wide receivers running a variety of routes without any defense.


“As advertised,” an AFC personnel director said afterward of Wilson’s showing. “There was no wow factor. He kind of has an arching ball. Probably because of his height he’s forced to arch the ball a little bit.”


That scout said Wilson would be drafted in the fourth or fifth round. Also after the workout, an NFC personnel chief guessed Wilson might go as high as the third round and no later than the sixth.


“Someone’s going to have to believe in him,” the AFC scout said. “You might have to go to a certain style or scheme. Height’s a little bit of an issue. But he had a pretty good completion percentage in a pro-style offense.”


Pretty good? Last season, Wilson completed 72.8 percent of 309 passes en route to an astronomical NFL passer rating of 135.8. Counting his three seasons for North Carolina State, his career rating was 101.7.


Wilson also ran for 1,421 yards and 23 touchdowns.


By comparison, the career ratings for Stanford’s


Andrew Luck (6-4, 234, 4.67) and Baylor’s Robert Griffin


(6-2½, 223, 4.41) were 111.9 and 110.1, respectively.


In early December, an NFC personnel man said Wilson was much more NFL-ready than Griffin, who might be the second player selected, after Luck.


“He’s a lot better than Griffin, but Griffin will win the Heisman and that stuff,” the scout said at the time, which Griffin did. “Russell might make 5-11 at the combine. He’s mid-rounds. Seneca Wallace has played all these years, and Russell is better than Seneca.”


On Sunday, neither Luck nor Griffin threw before scouts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Texas A&M’s Ryan Tannehill, the third-rated passer on some lists, also sat out because of his postoperative foot.


Of the seven quarterbacks in Wilson’s group, he probably was more engaged in the proceedings than the others. He continually clapped for his teammates, displaying some of the leadership traits that so quickly endeared him to his Badgers’ teammates and coaches.


Here’s how one AFC scout described Wilson after his team’s interview at the Senior Bowl: “Sharp. Good personality. Good communicator. Engaging.”


An accomplished student, Wilson scored 28 on the 50-question Wonderlic intelligence test.


“It’s shocking to me,” another personnel executive said. “It goes against everything I’ve ever been taught. He’s 5105


(5-10 5/8) and he’s the third-best quarterback in the draft. And he’s one of the best kids I’ve ever been around.


“What separates Wilson from Seneca Wallace is his ability to find the window and not get balls batted down. He has good enough arm strength. He has touch and leadership. He’s smart as crap, he’s got really good feet, he moves fluidly and he never gets rattled.”


Another AFC personnel director compared Wilson to Tyrod Taylor (6-1, 217, 4.51), Baltimore’s sixth-round pick last year from Virginia Tech who won the No. 2 job.


“I loved that kid for the same reason I like Russell Wilson,” the scout said. “He’s a great kid and will do anything to win and make the team. But Russell is 5-10 and doesn’t have a great arm. His arm is OK.


“Do you think he can win a Super Bowl? I don’t.”


A student of NFL history, Wilson said he has watched tape of Fran Tarkenton and Doug Flutie. Listed at 5-10, Flutie really stood about 5-8½. Tarkenton was listed at a generous 6-0.


Retired Green Bay GM Ron Wolf, another student of NFL history, came up with Joe Theismann as a player from the 1980s and 1990s who might closely resemble Wilson. In 1983, Theismann was listed at 6-0, 198.


“(Theismann) had a thickness to him in his lower body that enabled him to play,” said Wolf. “He was a little thicker than his size indicated because he was big-boned. He was tiny-framed in his upper body.”


Wolf has observed Wilson, who has a sculpted chest and arms, on television and sees no reason to disqualify him.


“He is better than some of the short guys who are trying to play in the league now,” said Wolf. “If he has the ability to play he will play.


“I’ve often felt, at that position, you can make it work. I think it is about the size of the fight in the dog rather than the size of the dog in the fight at the quarterback position.”



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