When you think of Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a few adjectives probably come to mind: elusive, unflappable, earnest to a degree that occasionally prompts an unfair amount of flack from online critics. Menacing, probably not so much—something that makes his decision to design an edition of Nike’s Alpha Menace Elite cleat seem a little, well, out of character.
"Exactly," he says, smiling a little from a dressing room on the ground level of Seattle’s CenturyLink Field, where he’s preparing to shoot a TV spot for the shoe. "When I lace up my cleats, I go into a different zone. They make me feel a certain type of way: It's time to go win."
The Russell Wilson Player Edition of the Alpha Menace Elite will be Wilson’s first cleat design—he previously created a special "DangeRuss Wilson" colorway for the Free Train Force Flyknit series (it’s also available for kids and, for Wilson and his expecting wife Ciara, for babies). His version of the Alpha Menace is mostly white with gray camo and lime green accents, and features his personal Nike logo and his name (well, "DangeRuss Wilson") on the shoe's spine.
To commemorate his debut cleat, which will be available along with the standard green and black colorway online and in select stores on March 30, Wilson sat down with B/R to talk shoes, why he’s taking a new approach to social media and who he thinks are the greatest singers of all time.
B/R: What were your favorite shoes growing up?
Russell Wilson: I remember my first cleats were the Griffeys, the black and emerald—ironic, since I'm in Seattle now. Griffey changed the game, but he also represented pop culture and the youth—how he wore his hat backwards, how he swung the bat and walked off...he brought energy to the game, class to the game. He was kind of the first person I really watched. He was a big influence.
B/R: I know this isn't your first foray into apparel, but how did you approach the design process for the cleat? What were the details you had to have?
RW: I wanted something that was going to begin a legacy—something new, something fresh, something dynamic, something dangerous. I had to make sure the shoe had great comfort and a great sense of style. I had to make sure the shoe had a certain speed to it, a dynamic nature. I like fashion, so I wanted it to be classic—something that kids can always remember and always wear years down the road.
In terms of the actual feel of the cleat, when I'm out there playing, I kind of describe it like an animal: I want to feel like a tiger or a cheetah, to be able to move and run and get away. That imagery was a big part of designing the shoe. On the bottom of the cleat, it almost looks like skin, or something animal-like. I always say it kind of looks like genetics. Even the design of the spike, it's kind of like a triangle. Most cleats have a circle spike, but these are really claws in the ground. I remember describing to the Nike development team the idea of clawing the ground and being able to run away, to get to where you need to get to—ultimately, that's the end zone.
B/R: The concept of the TV spot is "putting people on skates." What's going through your mind when the coverage breaks down and you've gotta take off?
RW: It's chaos. In the midst of chaos, you've gotta be able to slow it down. That's one of the things that God's gifted me with, it's one of the things that I've trained for, and train for now.
B/R: Does attaching your name to a shoe design make you nervous at all, just with the risk of internet/critical backlash?
RW: No, I don't worry about that. Ultimately, I think authenticity is always key, no matter what you do in life. It's also key to the branding side of things. The authenticity that the Nike brand and my brand have fits together perfectly.
B/R: What Nikes do you wear most often off the field?
RW: I wear the Air Force 1s—I do like the new Flyknit ones, I think that's kind of cool. I pretty much wear everything—running shoes, I have my training shoe that I wear all the time pretty much. I do wear Jordans, too. Everybody wears Jordans because they're so classic.
B/R: Who, besides you of course, has the best sneaker style in the Seahawks locker room?
RW: Good question...Paul Richardson, I like what he wears. He's got some pretty good shoes. Earl Thomas wears funky shoes a lot—I'm not sure if it's the best style, but he'll wear a lot of different things.
B/R: Switching to football, how's your offseason going?
RW: It's been great—I've been training like crazy with my trainer Decker [Davis] all the time, and we've been doing this new thing called Danger Train. It’s kind of storytelling about the offseason training, there's a lot more to come with that. More than anything, from a nutrition aspect to the speed aspect to the strengthening aspect and, most importantly, to the mental aspect, we're always trying to grow exponentially. We're continuing to find new ways to do that.
B/R: Who, from the team, have you kept most in touch with?
RW: There's a lot of guys. I'm super close with Jimmy Graham, super close with Doug Baldwin, super close with so many guys. We group text all the time. Justin Britt, I'm close with as well. Cliff Avril's close—I don't like naming names, because I don't want to leave someone out. They're all great guys.
B/R: You've also really been upping your social media presence this offseason—especially on Facebook Live.
RW: That's something that I'm continuing to learn about. When I first came into the NFL, I was just trying to be super, super ready to learn the plays and all that. Now, I've found more balance. I think that with new life coming in, and family and everything else, balance has been critical. That goes for the social media part, too—allowing the fans to come into our world a little is cool.
Also, I think giving great content out to people is critical, and exclusive, cool content they've never seen before is the best way to go.
B/R: What's the one thing that makes the Seahawks different than every other NFL team?
RW: I think it's the fans.
B/R: No, about the team!
RW: But I think that's part of the team! How they travel, I really do. That's the one common denominator. All of the teams have great players, but the fans are a major part of it—your atmosphere is what you become. For us, the atmosphere here in Seattle is one of a kind, there's nowhere like it.
B/R: What's your mantra going to be for the 2017 season?
RW: Win. It's really that simple.
B/R: What do you think is the biggest misconception that people have about you?
RW: That's a good question. It's funny, when I came into the National Football League, people didn't have that high of expectations for whatever reason. I don't agree with the reasons, but they had them—maybe because they thought I was too short. As a young rookie NFL player, you go to the rookie symposium and the one thing they tell you is, "You guys know what the NFL stands for?" Everybody looks around like, "National Football League...?" The guy's like, "Nope—Not For Long." They tell you right there to get prepared for your second life. You take that in, and I've always been one to prepare early, to see ahead and anticipate and believe in great things happening, and they do. I'd already known that concept and appreciated that concept, but for me, I was always going to be here for a while. I just believed in that.
I think the part that people get confused is that when you come in at a young age, they tell you to try to look for other things to do, and be ready for everything else in your life just in case. But as soon as you have a bunch of success, they think that's the only thing you can do, that you can only be a football player. I think God has gifted me with so many other things other than just football, and that's what I want to bring to the world.
That's the part that people can misconstrue. People don't understand: I've always been busy. They think that, "Oh, he's too busy, blah blah blah...," but for me, this is how it's always been. I took 18 credits every semester of college, graduated in three years, took graduate school courses, played football and baseball my whole college career. I've never stopped, and that's where that phrase "No Time 2 Sleep" is always true. I get motivated by success, by winning, by being around great people, and that's why I'm with Nike. Obviously with the Seahawks organization, I'm blessed everyday. I believe I have the greatest job in the world.
B/R: Wrapping things up with a fun one: I know you're a big R&B fan. Who's the most underrated R&B artist, to you?
RW: I'm more of an oldies guy. I'll say this—Michael Jackson, best entertainer of all time. Luther Vandross, best male singer of all time. Whitney Houston, best female singer of all time...and when Teddy Pendergrass says turn off the lights, turn 'em off. That's what I got for you.