Russell Wilson is a man of faith, family and friends.
It's hard to believe the Seattle Seahawks' quarterback used to be a bully.
"I used to beat people up. Truthfully, I used to beat people up a lot," Wilson told The Players' Tribune months ago. "Many of you readers probably think I have been Mr. Goody Two-Shoes my whole life, but honestly, I was a bully growing up. In elementary and middle school, I threw kids against the wall. I rubbed their heads in the dirt at recess. I bit them. I even knocked teeth out."
Wilson had a lot of anger as an adolescent and was unsure how to distribute his temper for good. It wasn't until Wilson was 14 years old when he started to utilize his faith for others instead of himself. Wilson will admit he's not perfect, and the only person he can change is the one in the mirror.
The reflection was different then, but now it resembles a role mode and Super Bowl champion. In a league where domestic violence, drug use and all sorts of controversy runs rampant, Wilson is the voice of reason. He transformed himself from a complicated kid to a responsible young man, and children across the world can learn from his story.
Seattle's prodigal son dedicates his life to children every Tuesday, when he takes time from his busy life as a quarterback to put smiles on the faces of those going through a battle more strenuous than a meaningless football game. Wilson was asked what his message to sick children would be during the circus that is known Super Bowl Media Day.
"To all kids in all of Children's Hospital ... obviously, I go to Children's Hospital every Tuesday in Seattle and unfortunately I had to miss today. But to all of the kids out there, I'm just praying for you guys and praying for miracles. Keep the faith and be strong against cancer, that's something I've been really big into in Seattle. I'm just rooting for everybody."
Wilson can be sure the Emerald City and surrounding areas are pulling for him and the Seahawks Sunday against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
The 26-year-old Wilson still has the bully deep inside and it shows solely on the playing field. Watching Wilson in person, especially on the road, is quite a spectacle because of the angst and aggravation he puts on the home fans. He has defeated the odds as a quarterback at 5-foot-11 and proves that size doesn't really matter. Wilson is a dual threat with his legs and strong arm, and knows kids are looking up to him in admiration.
He has some advice for young players striving to be great.
"I think the advice that I got from my dad is keep things in perspective, have a great purpose in life, have great perspective and always persevere," Wilson said. "I think for me, that's kind of been my story so far in my life. I just keep believing in the people I have around me. I surround myself around great people that really encourage me every day."
Wilson said education was important and helped him change his life in a positive matter. Sports is something that comes last for Wilson. That may seem irrelevant because he's a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback, but being a better person than a signal caller opens the pearly gates wider at the end.
What is Wilson's perspective on his legacy both on and off the field?
"In terms of my legacy on the field, I want to be considered a winner. That's ultimately the goal in terms of playing quarterback, is win, win, win. That's all that really matters at the end of the day," Wilson said. "In terms of my legacy off the field, I want to be a Christian man that helps lead and helps change lives and helps serve other people. It's not about me, you know? It's not about me and it's about just helping other people. So that's kind of where I keep my focus."
One of the brightest young stars in the NFL, Wilson uses his athletic gift to glorify his faith in God. He knows people look up to athletes and that it's imperative to be a good role model. Wilson admits he's not perfect and is just trying to do the right thing.
Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll embeds a team-first mentality on his players and back-to-back Super Bowl appearances is proof the players are listening. Wilson is the biggest ambassador for Carroll's ideology with his competitive nature and despite to make those around him better people.
When Wilson looks across the field Sunday in Arizona, he will see a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Tom Brady. Wilson grew up watching Brady, Peyton Manning, Brett Favre and his personal favorite, Drew Brees. Wilson beat Manning in last year's Super Bowl and has a chance to knock off two QBs who will have busts in Canton, Ohio.
"I'm not sure if it's about just playing against those guys, but winning back- to-back Super Bowls is history in itself," Wilson said. "But also to play Peyton Manning and to play a guy like Tom Brady ... like I said, two of the best to ever play the game ... I think it's special just because you'll never forget it. You want to play the best. To be the best, you have to beat the best, and it's going to be exciting for us."
Wilson is only in his third season in the NFL and will be the youngest quarterback in league history to start two Super Bowls. Wilson is 42-13 as a starter, including a 6-1 mark in the playoffs. He won his only start against New England on Oct. 14, 2012 in a 24-23 victory and tossed the go-ahead touchdown pass to Sidney Rice with 1:18 to go. He had three TD passes and no interceptions, while Brady passed for 395 yards with two scores and two picks.
Sunday's QB matchup will feature two different styles, as Brady is a more standard pocket passer and Wilson uses his mobility.
"Russell and Tom Brady are both great winners," Carroll said. "Tom has had a long time to prove that. Russell is at the early stages of proving that to the world. But he's got a chance to be similar."
If Wilson wins on Sunday he'll have one less ring than Brady. And that deserves a lofty pay raise, right? That could present challenges, according to Seattle general manager John Schneider via 710 ESPN. Wilson will be eligible for a new deal in the offseason which could fetch up to $20 million a season and prevent the team from bolstering the roster further. Quarterback is the most important position in all of sports and salaries should resemble such.
Wilson isn't concerned about finances and will cash in down the road.
"The focus is on winning a second Super Bowl."
It's about the New England Patriots and bringing another championship to the Pacific Northwest for Wilson. Teammates, family and fans of all ages will be in his corner Sunday in Super Bowl XLIX and he doesn't want to let them down.
"I think the biggest goal is for us to win because of all the hard work we've put in this year. The journey that we've been on has been unbelievable. We've had a great journey and we've come a long way, so to get back back-to-back years is pretty special. So hopefully we get this win."