Marc Trestman saw talent in Russell Wilson
BY MARK POTASH January 28, 2014 11:14PM
Updated: January 29, 2014 10:10AM
NEWARK, N.J. — You can’t say Russell Wilson came out of nowhere.
Bears coach Marc Trestman saw his talent when he was an assistant at North Carolina State and Wilson was a two-sport star in a Richmond, Va., high school. In fact, N.C. State, with coach Chuck Amato, was among the first big schools to offer the diminutive quarterback a scholarship.
But Howie Long saw it even before then. He sensed Wilson was special when Wilson was only 14 and playing in baseball tournaments with Long’s son Kyle, the Bears’ rookie guard.
‘‘He just had a maturity that you don’t see in a kid that age,’’ Howie Long said. ‘‘It was a summer baseball tournament when he was 13 or 14 years old. Between games, I’m throwing a football with Russell in the parking lot. And honest-to-God truth, I called the University of Virginia and I said, ‘There’s a kid down here who throws the ball better than anybody you have on your roster right now. You need to offer this kid as soon as you can.’ ’’
Wilson went to Virginia’s football camp but ended up at N.C. State, though Amato and Trestman were fired before Wilson stepped foot on campus. It was a miss the Virginia coaches — former NFL coach Al Groh and his son Mike, the Bears’ wide receivers coach — regret to this day.
‘‘At the Pro Bowl, Mike Groh was there as a guest of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, and he said, ‘I blew it. We had him at our camp,’ ’’ Long said.
‘‘I think people had a problem getting past the measurables. He’s 5-11, doesn’t run a 4.5 [40-yard dash], but when I see him on film and on the field, he’s running away from guys that run a 4.5. Football people want to measure and look at the clock. But what they don’t measure are the intangibles.’’
Trestman acknowledged the 5-11 Wilson’s lack of size but called him one of the most accurate quarterbacks he had ever seen. Amato was sold and offered a scholarship. Though Wilson never played for Trestman, he appreciates the faith Trestman showed in him to this day.
‘‘Marc Trestman — he believed in me,’’ Wilson said during Super Bowl Media Day festivities at the Prudential Center. ‘‘He’s the one that, [with] coach Amato, gave me the chance. I knew that coach Trestman was extremely passionate about the game. I have a lot of respect for coach Trestman and all the things he’s done [in football].’’
Wilson said Trestman’s belief in him ‘‘definitely stuck with me. I’ve talked to him ever since. We’ve developed a really good relationship.’’
Wilson’s intangibles loom larger than ever with Super Bowl XLVIII looming Sunday. He has a knack for making big plays when he needs it most and making his worst plays at the right time, as well.
In the NFC Championship Game against the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson lost a fumble inside his own 20, but it happened on the first play from scrimmage, with plenty of time to recover. But in the fourth quarter, when Colin Kaepernick had three turnovers, Wilson threw a 35-yard touchdown pass to Jermaine Kearse on a critical fourth-and-seven. The Seahawks would not be in the Super Bowl without it.
‘‘To be a great quarterback you have to have great leadership, great attention to detail and you have to be a relentless competitor,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘I think God’s kind of given that gift to me.
‘‘But when God gives you a talent, you [still have to] work on it. I’m constantly thinking about it, constantly focusing on how I can improve it. I still learning. I still have a long ways to go.’’