I got another chance to see University of Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson on Saturday. He starred in the Badger’s 62-17 drubbing of Purdue. Wilson continues to pass my “eyeball-test.” There simply has not been a better college quarterback this year. Based on what I’ve seen he’s been even better than Stanford’s Andrew Luck, who is considered by many to be college football’s top quarterback and the NFL’s next great passer.
But to my mind, and more importantly to my eyes, on the college level Luck has not outplayed Russell Wilson. Wilson does everything well. He throws accurately, he stays composed and he shines as a leader on the field. Further, his glowing resume is enhanced by the fact that he can also run the ball pretty well when he wants to.
But there is a glaring problem for this excellent college quarterback. Wilson is only 5’10" tall—which is munchkin-size by NFL quarterback standards. And it also means he will never be properly evaluated by the so-called football experts. Meaning he will most likely not get a serious opportunity to play quarterback in the NFL.
According to the football geniuses, the prototypical future franchise quarterback must be well over 6 feet tall, ideally about 6’4” or taller, with a rocket arm. Their ideal quarterback is also smart and is most comfortable passing from the pocket.
Russell Wilson has been defying the skeptics for years. Wilson, who is in his last year of college eligibility at Wisconsin, played his first three collegiate years at North Carolina State. He was spectacular at a school not known for football excellence. During his time there he passed for more than 8000 yards and threw 76 touchdowns, earning All-ACC honors.
But Wilson was able to move on to quarterback-starved Wisconsin this season based on an obscure NCAA rule which allows players who’ve earned their degree, yet still have eligibility remaining, to play immediately at another school.
Wilson has been embraced at Wisconsin, which if not for two heartbreaking, last-second losses earlier this season, could have been in the argument for the national championship. Still, despite those setbacks, Wilson has been the shining constant.
Sadly, though, that will likely not be enough for those who continue to insist that quarterbacks must look and play a certain way. The size-challenged Wilson just doesn’t meet their profile. Of course those same experts are wrong more often than not.
Last season, they said that Missouri’s Blaine Gabbert was the best quarterback not named Andrew Luck and that Gabbert would have a much easier time transitioning to the NFL than Auburn’s Cam Newton, who won a national championship and won the Heisman.
Of course the “experts” didn’t have it right, as Newton appears to be on track for a stellar career in Carolina, setting rookie passing marks, while Gabbert is struggling to just be competent in Jacksonville.
That said, for my money, Russell Wilson, despite his size, has all of the intangibles that will allow him to succeed in the NFL for years to come. I just hope he gets a fair chance to prove it.
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