Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
When Texas Rangers general manager Jon Daniels selected Russell Wilson in the Rule 5 draft in December 2013 a lot of fans were left scratching their heads. Russell Wilson is playing in Super Bowl XLVIII as the Seattle Seahawks starting quarterback. So how did Wilson end up being a Texas Rangers?
Russell Wilson has played both football and baseball since his high school days at The Collegiate School, a preparatory school in Richmond, Virginia. Although Wilson excelled at both sports, listed at 5’11” most NFL scouts overlooked him, deeming him too short for a quarterback. However, according to an ESPN.com feature article about Russell Wilson by Chris Preston, Wilson began receiving invitations to play for multiple baseball showcases. Even with the major leagues knocking on his door, Russell Wilson opted to follow his dream to be a two-sport collegiate athlete. “I was leaning towards [entering the draft], but a college education is something you’ll always have.” – Russell Wilson
Most teams backed off once Wilson chose to attend North Carolina State, but the Baltimore Orioles selected him with the fifth pick in the 41st round (1222nd overall) of the 2007 MLB draft, just-in-case he had a change of heart.
Russell Wilson played three seasons at NC State, splitting his time between football and baseball, Wilson only played in 106 games. In 241 at-bats Wilson had 47 runs, 68 hits, 5 home runs, 30 RBI and a hitting line of .282/.384/.415. After graduation in May 2010 the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the 4th round (140th overall) in the 2010 MLB draft. Even though his time in the minors was short, only two years before deciding to commit fully to football, he left a lasting impression on his coaches and teammates.
Wilson is known for his vigorous work ethic. In a New York Times article Russell Wilson’s Class A Asheville hitting coach, Lenn Sakata was quoted saying “What inspires a coach is that a player goes beyond what is expected of him, he wasn’t going to fail because of a lack of effort” noting that Wilson would arrive to the ballpark early on game days to work on his fielding and bunting and to have one-on-one sessions with Sakata. Former Asheville teammate Brett Tanos said “There was just an extra thing about him that you knew was special.”
Russell Wilson is also known for his strong mindset, dedication and character. Two of his former college football teammates, who both happen to play for the Denver Broncos, knew in college that Wilson was a leader and had no doubts that he would make it in the NFL. “I knew that Russell, with his mindset, was going to be a successful quarterback, he’s a leader. He displayed all the great qualities of a quarterback” said Montee Ball, who played one season — 2010 — with Wilson at Wisconsin. Russell Wilson was voted captain by his peers at Wisconsin. He was known to either be studying film or at home studying for school, not going out at night like most college kids.
"“Based on his history, based on what we’d heard of him and based on the first couple practices we had, we were like, ‘OK, we need to follow this guy.’ ” – Montee Ball"
Nate Irving who played with Russell Wilson at NC State wanted Wilson to stay at NC instead of being granted the release of his football scholarship to play for the Colorado Rockies. “I was mad,” Irving said. “I didn’t want him to leave. He had to do what he had to.”
Wilson is active in the Seattle community as well. During the NFL season, he makes weekly visits to Seattle Children’s Hospital and visits with soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In 2012 Russell Wilson founded two charities, The Power of Mind Foundation and Russell Wilson Passing Academy, which emphasizes mental and physical development of children and stresses the importance of competitive fairness with respect and service of others.
Jon Daniels picked Russell Wilson knowing that the likelihood of Wilson ever playing for the Texas Rangers is a long shot, but is hoping that he will attend Spring Training to help motivate the young players. “We talk to our scouts about the makeup we want of our players and the work ethic it takes to win, and Russell Wilson has been an example of that. He has off-the-charts character and focus,” Daniels told ESPN.com’s Richard Durrett.
"“My goals long-term are to play professionally, but being successful for me means being a leader in your community. You dream big, that’s one of the things I tell kids all the time.” – Russell Wilson"
It is abundantly clear that JD chose Russell Wilson because of his heart, character, dedication and work ethic, all of the things that anyone who has ever met, coached or worked with Wilson remember most about him. Even though Wilson will probably never play a baseball game for the Texas Rangers, he will most likely have a huge impact on the team and might prove to be the best Rule 5 draft pick in Texas Rangers history.