This was supposed to be a two man race for Rookie of the Year (ROY) honors. It was going to be either #1 Draft Pick Andrew Luck of the Colts, or it would be Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of the Redskins. These two QB’s have been playing steadily all year, turning their teams around, transforming them from cellar dwellers to playoff teams, and catching nearly all the headlines of the major sports media. But a funny thing happened on these two guy’s way to the ROY award. Russell Wilson of the Seahawks has put up a ROY season of his own, having guided his team to 10 wins and the playoffs. All the more amazing when you consider how Wilson started his pro career just months earlier.
Who is this Russell Wilson guy? He was drafted 75th overall in the third round and started the season as a 3rd stringer behind the previous year’s starter and a new free agent with a big contract. Wilson whose height will never crack 6’0″, so impressed his coaches in summer camp that they made it a 3-way competition for the QB job. After he won the job, most “experts” in the sports media confidently predicted Wilson would “be a good backup, but is not starting QB material”. He was dismissed as too short, but they overlooked Wilson’s primary asset as a player. His brain. He is a student of the game like no one other than maybe Peyton Manning. His work ethic is second to none. His leadership is contagious. His confidence is off the charts. His stats are right there with the other two guys. What’s different is Russell Wilson is actually re-defining the position of NFL quarterback to fit HIS capabilities.
Sunday night everyone in the country finally got to see what the whispers were all about on this rookie QB Wilson way up in the United State’s version of western Siberia, Seattle Washington. The first hint that something was happening in western Siberia came when the Seahawks beat the division leading Chicago Bears at home in week 13. It’s safe to say no one saw that coming, including a lot of people in Seattle, since the team had just lost to the Dolphins the previous week. The amazing thing about that win over the Bears was Wilson had to win it twice. After seemingly securing the win with a long drive with under 30 seconds on the clock, Seattle’s defense allowed a long pass to get the Bears in field goal range. They made the kick and the game went to OT. This is when things changed for Seattle’s season. Wilson put the team on his shoulders, and took the ball 80 yards on Chicago, throwing and running through their defense at will, and getting the winning score while Chicago’s offense sat helplessly and watched the birth of a green and blue monster.
The next week Wilson and Seattle spanked the Cardinals, who they lost to back in week one, 58 – zip. That shocking score gained the solid interest of the national sports media. The following week, Seattle put the stake through the heart of their “road curse” by dominating the Bills in Toronto in another 50 point blow out. Now the media had all eyes and ears on Wilson and Seattle, and Russell Wilson has officially entered the ROY “discussion”. Sensing something was happening in Seattle, the network changed the Seahawks/49ers game to the ‘Sunday Night Football’ showcase.
With the nation’s eyes on Seattle and their rookie QB, the Seahawks dismantled THE BEST DEFENSE in the league, while holding the 49ers potent offense to two field goals until late in garbage time where they finally managed to cross the goal line. And this was the same 49er team that only a week before beat New England in their own stadium.
Tweets by sports writers after the game not only indicate Wilson is “in the discussion” for ROY, but may now actually be LEADING Luck and RGIII. Russell Wilson may be late to the party, but he’s just kicked in the door and taken over the DJ’s booth. And he’s playing his own tune, the one that says a 5’10″ quarterback CAN play in the NFL. He’s having to redefine how a quarterback plays to get back whatever advantage he loses by being 4 inches too short for an NFL quarterback. But that’s all the more reason to give him the nod for Rookie of the Year. How many other rookies have had to redefine their position in order to play at a high level? The ROY award has been given to lots of “prototype” quarterbacks who came into the league and had a good year. But maybe this year it’s about more than that. Maybe it’s about a “pioneer” as commentator Trent Dilfer said on a post game show; a guy who will open doors and eyes and make it a little easier for undersized players to play quarterback in the NFL.
Earl Thomas is in the process of becoming the future.
He was an extra pick Tim Ruskell fanagled out of the Broncos and then was never allowed to take.
Thank god it wasn’t Ruskell making the call. He would have peed his pants, hollered out Tim Tebow’s name, and fainted into a fetal position twitching every once in a while whispering, “Timmy,” only to fall gently back asleep.
John Schneider and Pete Carroll went with Thomas.
So far the the 14th pick is 2nd on the team with 30 tackles, tied for 1st on the team with 5 passes defended, and tied for 2nd in the NFL with 4 interceptions. He plays with with just enough cockiness to be cool. He becomes a tornado near the ball fighting through defenders disrupting play after play. At times this season, he has looked like the most dominant defender on the field.
Earl Thomas has arrived, and this could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.
E.T. combines his natural talents of speed and reaction time with a lunch pale work ethic. One of his most memorable plays this year came on an 86 yd touchdown pick against the Vikings. Thomas’ speed looks unreal in the following clip. It seems like the clip has been sped up for production. He looks like a cartoon character leaving a line of dumbfounded defenders and smoke. He looks like the future.
Great players learn a lot between failure and success. If handled with patience and discipline, failure is simply a beginning point and success the end. One cannot exist without the other, and the farther each man travels between the two, provided he reaches his goal, the more he learns about himself.
Thomas’ character is a combination of struggle, fight, success, and love. In 2005 Earl Thomas was just 16 years old when a hurricane destroyed his family’s home forcing them to seek shelter in a nearby hotel. Eventually the family found their way to his grandparent’s house where they resided during Thomas’ collegiate career. Thomas looked to be a consistent starter on a nationally ranked team during his first season at Texas until adversity struck Earl one more time. Unfortunately, Thomas found himself partly responsible for a play invoving Michael Crabtree
which prevented the Longhorns from securing a spot in the National Title Game.
I can’t help but wonder how many times Earl Thomas watched that play between his freshman and sophomore season and what he thought about.
The following year Thomas had 8 picks. Two were returned for touchdowns. The longest was 92 yards and highlighted the unrealistic speed Thomas possesses. At just nineteen years old, Earl Thomas demonstrated the ability to learn from failure rather than be destroyed by it. Most of us have the luxury of learning that lesson amongst our friends or family. Earl Thomas did it alone and on a National stage.
I can’t remember the last time a rookie has shown this much potential so early on. He has the character of Mack Strong, Galloway speed, Chad Brown intensity, and the talent potential of Wa… Wait a minute. It’s still a little early for that one. At this point, however, Earl Thomas is showing enough to be a strong consideration for Rookie of the Year honors. He is showing enough to be a Pro Bowl consideration for this and many years to come. He is showing enough that I just might have to buy his Jersey next weekend. He is showing us glimpses of a future that will cultivate one highlight reel after the next. Big hits and and many picks later, Earl Thomas will be the future.
Right now he is just in the process of it and already has my undivided attention. I can’t even begin to imagine what comes next.