Keith Price answered his cellphone about 16 months ago. At the time, he couldn’t have known he was talking to Seattle’s next sports icon.
“Hey, this is Russell Wilson,” the voice on the other line said.
Wilson, whom the Seahawks had taken in the third round of the draft in April 2012, was new to town. He needed someone to throw with and talk football. And he knew Price, the Washington quarterback, was good. During the 2011 season, Wilson had set an NCAA record with a 191.8 passing efficiency rating, but Price wasn’t far behind, ranking seventh nationally.
Price happily accepted the chance to train with an NFL quarterback.
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Now, Wilson is the prince of a city eagerly anticipating the day he becomes king. And his good friend is Price, the leader of a resurgent Husky football program that has long occupied much of Seattle’s heart.
Talk about friends in high places.
“It’s awesome having him as a mentor to me,” Price said of Wilson. “Just knowing that I have a guy performing at the highest level helping me achieve is a blessing.”
Said Wilson of Price: “Just being around him, he’s a great kid. He’s got a lot of ability. He’s got charisma. He’s a guy who is a great leader for his football team, and so just being around him was something that meant a lot to me.”
Wilson connected with Price through Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, a former Husky. Over the past two offseasons, Wilson and Price have thrown together, worked out with the same trainer and talked about every nerdy detail of football. Sometimes, Wilson has even shown up for informal Husky workouts during the summer and shared reps with the UW quarterbacks.
Last Saturday, Wilson attended the Huskies’ 38-6 victory over Boise State and saw Price throw for 324 yards and two touchdowns. After the game, Price turned on his cellphone and read a text-message critique from Wilson that went on for several pages.
After a few lines of praise, Wilson highlighted some areas where Price could improve.
“Keep my eyes downfield. Don’t take sacks. And slide,” Price said, relaying Wilson’s message.
Price flashed his irrepressible smile and laughed.
“He’s awesome, man,” he said, the second of three awesomes that Price used while talking about Wilson.
Of course, Wilson doesn’t see the gesture as anything special. He’s both a football savant and addict. He can’t get enough of the game. His work ethic and thirst for improvement are becoming legendary, and in Price he sees a similar hunger.
Wilson is now a magazine cover boy and a franchise player. But at heart, he’s just like Price, a young man (Wilson is 24, Price 22) who feels so much joy playing the game that he can’t contain his smile.
“I’ve been watching over him the past year,” Wilson said. “Obviously, I went to the game, and he had a tremendous football game. He was unbelievable. He was lights out for the most part. I was just trying to give him a couple of notes here and there of things I’ve watched. I was watching as a fan but also critiquing. I always critique the game when I’m watching, so just letting him know that he’s doing a great job and to continue what he’s doing.”
Price now calls Wilson “a good buddy of mine.” Price struggled in 2012, but Wilson remained in his ear, telling him to focus on improvement and ignore the negativity. If the Huskies’ season opener was an accurate indicator, Price is primed to return to form and perhaps break new ground.
He looks rejuvenated. He looks like a dual-threat quarterback again. He looks a little like Wilson.
They’re similar players. Both are smallish, far from the prototypical 6-foot-4 quarterback. Price is 6-1, and people used to be so obsessed with Wilson’s height that they refused to round up in saying that he’s 5-105
8. Though Wilson is the more effective runner, both are mobile quarterbacks and use that mobility to extend plays and create big plays in the passing game. Both are extremely accurate. And both are well-spoken and inspire confidence.
Put them side by side, and it’s no surprise they’re friends. What’s not to like about either player, really? The local sports scene is richer because they’re a part of it. Now, they have a chance to do something special in the same season.
“Hopefully, we can motivate each other to do big things,” Price said. “Just the fact that we have a relationship is cool. We both want to do something great for the city.”
With Price and Wilson sharing the same orbit, something great is bound to happen. And what a text-message exchange that will be.
Jerry Brewer: 206-464-2277 or firstname.lastname@example.org