A year ago, Wisconsin football fans cheered him. Monday night, those same fans will cheer against Russell Wilson.
Wilson will lead the Seattle Seahawks against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field. Wilson, the hero of the Wisconsin Badgers' Rose Bowl season last year, will be making his third professional start.
Already, the rookie quarterback is getting rave reviews. He slayed the "mighty" Dallas Cowboys last Sunday with Wilson-like efficiency, completing 15 of 20 passes for 151 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions and a 112.7 passer rating. Wilson also ran four times for 28 yards.
It was the kind of game manager's performance that won Wilson the starting job in a competition with Matt Flynn, who left the Packers in free agency last March. Most are surprised Wilson was able to win the competition as a rookie, not only because he lacks experience, but also because he lacks NFL-type size. Wilson did not, however, surprise himself.
"I'm not surprised. The Seahawks drafted me for a reason. They believed in me and saw I have the ability to play at a high level in the NFL. I just had to trust in myself and in my preparation. Just let it go and play great football," he told Packers media on Thursday.
"I've always had full confidence in my ability. The main thing for me is I prepared the right way every single morning I woke up.
"It couldn't have worked out any better," he said in referring to how the transition to Wisconsin from North Carolina State prepared him for the transition Wilson would have to make from Wisconsin to the Seahawks. "Coming here was a perfect situation. I believe I have tremendous football knowledge and I transition well. That transition made it a little easier for me. I love to learn. I love to be on a constant quest for knowledge."
Monday night, Wilson will have a chance to slay another one of the NFC's top teams, the Packers, a team coming off its best defensive performance in two years. Through two weeks of the season, the Packers are No. 5 in the league in total defense, No. 2 in pass defense and No. 1 in sacks.
"It's going to be a great atmosphere. It's going to be Monday Night Football. At the same time, a hundred yards is a hundred yards. It's not going to be any different. Maybe there'll be a few more people watching, but that doesn't change the way we play or I play," Wilson said.
Seattle Head Coach Pete Carroll is confident he's found the player that can lead the Seahawks at the quarterback position. It was the missing link through Carroll's first two years as the team's coach, and Flynn was signed to address it. Then came the draft and Wilson's play has supported the third-round pick invested in him. It was a pick most said was too high for a 5-11 quarterback.
"I loved his mobility. We put it all together and we didn't care what size package that came in. We loved the kid and his playing ability," Carroll said.
"We evaluated very, very carefully and we found if there were any times when height was a factor, he'd do something about it. The results were excellent. I talked to Bud Grant about it and about when he had Fran (Tarkenton), and tried to get a feel for what he thought, and he relieved a lot of concerns I had."
"Do I have a chip on my shoulder? People saying I can't do this, I can't do that, that always motivates me because I'm an ultimate competitor," Wilson said. "I always want to play at the highest level and win. I'm never afraid to excel. Sometimes you have to forget what everybody says, ignore the noise, and keep fighting and keep playing.
"My height doesn't define my skill set."
He'll define himself one way or another against the Packers on Monday night, in front of a national television audience. Additional coverage - Sept. 20