RENTON – After the din had finally receded Sunday night after the Seahawks’ victory over San Francisco that sent them to Super Bowl XLVIII, Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson was asked what he was thinking as he took the final three kneel-down snaps. His answer came, well, a little out of left field.
Wilson didn’t say he was savoring the moment or basking in the glow of the 68,000-plus cheering wildly.
Instead, he said: “To be honest with you, the thing that I thought about during the last snap was, ‘Man, I could have been playing baseball right now.’ ’’
It was a reference to the fact that Wilson spent parts of two summers playing minor-league baseball during his college years. It was also a reminder of the somewhat unconventional road Wilson has taken to get to the Super Bowl, and one of many stark contrasts between Wilson and his Super Bowl counterpart, Peyton Manning of the Denver Broncos.
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Manning, as one of three sons of longtime NFL quarterback Archie Manning, seemed preordained for success from almost the moment he was born. After a standout career at Tennessee, where he arrived as one of the most highly-touted recruits in the country, he was the No. 1 pick in the 1998 NFL draft.
Wilson, meanwhile, was regarded as a reach by the Seahawks as a third-round pick in 2012, questions lingering about his listed height of 5 feet 11. That was one reason he was pursuing baseball in the first place, keeping his options open during a time when many doubted if he had a legitimate NFL future. He’d signed initially with North Carolina State as two-star recruit, one of his few other offers coming from Duke.
Then there are the styles.
At 6 feet 5, 230 pounds, Manning remains the leading prototype of the traditional dropback quarterback, throwing for an NFL-record 55 touchdown passes in 2013.
Wilson, meanwhile, is one of the leaders of the new guard of mobile quarterbacks, as dangerous with his feet as his arm. His 52 career touchdown passes, second-most for any QB in the first two years of his career, don’t even match Manning’s total for this season.
Then there is age.
At 37 years, 315 days, Manning will be the second-oldest quarterback to start a Super Bowl, trailing only another Bronco, John Elway, who was 38 when he led Denver to a victory over Atlanta in 1999.
At 25 years and 66 days, Wilson will be the sixth-youngest quarterback to start a Super Bowl, and youngest since 23-year-old Ben Roethlisberger led the Steelers to a win over the Seahawks in 2006.
The perception leading into the Super Bowl will be that if Wilson is to lead the Seahawks to the Super Bowl, he will do so similarly to Roethlisberger, who relied on his team’s defense, running game and big plays (and yes, a few controversial calls that went Pittsburgh’s way) and threw for just 123 yards in Pittsburgh’s win.
Manning, meanwhile, will be expected to carry the freight for the Broncos, after setting an NFL record for passing yards this season with 5,477.
While he’ll never be compared with Manning in physical stature or style, Wilson hopes to someday measure up in accomplishment.
“I want to be like him one day in terms of all the things that he’s done and how he’s gone about his business,’’ Wilson said Sunday. “ I think that when you think about a quarterback and you think about all the things that go into it, his mind is just so strong. All the things that he does at the line of scrimmage and all that (in terms of changing plays), that’s where I’m trying to get one day.
“But to go against a guy that’s definitely going to be a Hall of Famer and one of the best quarterbacks to ever play the game is a tremendous honor. At the same time, it’s not me versus him. It’s the Denver Broncos versus the Seattle Seahawks.”
The statement is pure Wilson, and in that regard he varies little from Manning, who also rarely ventures into controversial statement territory.
Not that Wilson isn’t afraid to speak his mind when the time is right.
After Sunday’s win, he recalled a players-only meeting at the beginning of the year and the words of his father Harrison, who told his son to believe that anything is possible in life with the saying “Russ, why not you?’’
“So I kind of translated that to ‘why not us?’ ” Wilson said. “It’s one of those things that we believed at the beginning of the year that we could get there. We had unbelievable talent, great coaching staff, we had the pieces in order, and we just needed to go after it.’’
And as the final seconds ticked down Sunday, Wilson said one other thought raced through his mind.
“The other thing I thought about is just all the people that told me I couldn’t do it and told me that I couldn’t get there,’’ he said.
A thought that now seems as foreign as Wilson in baseball stirrups.
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
On Twitter @bcondotta