NEW YORK -- If he hadn't done so much work on it, seen it for himself before coming back and making everyone else see it, too, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider might have taken it personally that his mentor was giving him the business.
Schneider had just broken one of Ron Wolf's golden rules. He had just drafted a short quarterback. And not just a little bit short. This guy was a full inch shorter than Ty Detmer, the shortest quarterback Wolf ever drafted in his 10 seasons as Green Bay Packers general manager.
"Ron gave me a ton of (expletive)," Schneider said with a laugh last week.
It is Schneider who is having the last laugh though, because two years later that short quarterback -- 5-foot-105/8-inch Russell Wilson -- is sharing a stage at Super Bowl XLVIII with Peyton Manning, arguably the greatest quarterback of all-time and a certain first ballot Hall of Famer.
When the evening is over one of the two will be holding up the Lombardi Trophy.
How Wilson got to this position has everything to do with him and his strong arm, sharp mind, quick feet, tremendous confidence and -- most of all -- complete disregard for the notion he's too short to play in the NFL.
But how he got to the Seahawks is a different story. That credit rests comfortably on Schneider's lap.
In his normal scouting rounds, Schneider, who had been hired from his position as one of Ted Thompson's top advisers in 2010, had studied Wilson and become increasingly fond of him. The Seahawks were not going to win a Super Bowl with Tarvaris Jackson at quarterback, so Schneider and coach Pete Carroll were on the lookout for someone who could take them there.
Having a gut feeling about Wilson, Schneider decided to attend the Big Ten championship game between Wisconsin and Michigan State on Dec. 3, 2011. It turned out to be a typical Wilson game -- 187 yards passing, three touchdowns -- but it also provided the moment in which Schneider became completely sold on Wilson.
It came with 3 minutes 45 seconds left in the game, right after running back Montee Ball had scored for a third time to give the Badgers a 40-39 lead. Seeking a three-point advantage that would force a tie if the Spartans responded with a field goal, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema decided to go for a 2-point conversion.
Lined up in the shotgun, Wilson received immediate pressure on his right from current Packers end Jerel Worthy and was forced to scramble left. As he got to the left hash mark he pivoted and, circling back to the middle of the field, unloaded a pass off his front foot through three defenders to tight end Jacob Pedersen.
"He just opened up and just hit the tight end," Schneider said, re-enacting the play. "He opened up and it was just -- bang! -- it was like right below us (the scouts). Holy cow."
Just as Wolf became convinced 20 years earlier that Brett Favre was his man, Schneider was sold on Wilson. He came back to Seattle and started telling anyone who would listen that Wilson was a legitimate NFL prospect.
But there was that height thing and the little Ron Wolf on his shoulder telling him not to do it. Part of what convinced Schneider he was right was the amount of time he had spent studying the 6-01/4 Drew Brees when the New Orleans Saints quarterback came out of Purdue in 2001.
Schneider was working for Mike Holmgren and Thompson in Seattle at the time and the Seahawks were considering a trade for Matt Hasselbeck, signing free agent Mark Brunell or drafting Brees. They ultimately settled on Hasselbeck, but Schneider never forgot how impressed he was with Brees.
Wilson, he thought, could be the same type of player. He had background in a run-style offense at Wisconsin and a spread offense at North Carolina State, where he played for three seasons before transferring to UW.
His athletic career spread to baseball -- he was a fourth-round pick of the Colorado Rockies in 2010. By the time he was throwing that 2-point conversion against the Spartans, Wilson was a polished, mature, professionally ready prospect.
"John came back and was raving about him," Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "We knew that was going to be a guy on our radar and somebody that we really wanted to take a hard look at.
"I think what changed (as far as his height) was that we were sold on him in every way. Whether it was his playing ability and the things he did on the field, but also all the intangibles that come with it. I think really the intangibles are what set him apart and really pushed him over in saying we need to take a chance on him."
The amount of work the Seahawks did on Wilson before being certain they could win with a quarterback who wasn't much taller than the DePere native Schneider himself was intensive. They tapped into every resource they had to help make the decision.
Quarterbacks coach Carl Smith had insight from a high school teammate of his son's who had been drafted by the Rockies and was Wilson's roommate at Class A Asheville. Smith, who was living in Asheville after being fired from Jacksonville, watched the games on the Internet almost every night.
"He told me what kind of guy he was," Smith said of Wilson's roommate.
Carroll was connected professionally with former Minnesota Vikings coach Bud Grant, who had gone to three Super Bowls with Fran Tarkenton as his quarterback. Grant had a ton of insight on what kind of adjustments were necessary playing with a short quarterback.
"Pete talked to Coach Grant a lot about Fran Tarkenton and the way he played because Fran was only 5-10," Schneider said.
Bevell said he and the scouts broke down all of Wilson's games dating to his time at North Carolina State, looking for flaws that might cause him to fail in the NFL. They cut up the tape so that they could see him in every type of situation and get a sense how they would have to structure their offense with him in it.
"We just watched him," Smith said. "And I would tell Coach, he's not running plays the same way as these same plays look with other quarterbacks. And it's like, he's terrific out of the pocket. He was at Wisconsin.
"He makes good decisions, makes good throws out there; he's explosive out there, so let's chill out. Let's watch it and (see) what's wrong when he's leaving prematurely. Is it better out there? We've been able to figure it out. When he's protected, he sits in there. When he's not, he leaves."
One physical aspect of Wilson that encouraged everybody was the size of his hands. Playing in the Northwest where it's as likely to be wet and sloppy at CenturyLink Field as it is loud, a strong grip on the ball is necessary.
Wilson's hand size -- measured from extended pinkie to extended thumb -- came in at a remarkable 101/4 inches. Compared to Favre, who had unusually large hands that measured 103/8 inches, and Aaron Rodgers, whose measure 93/4 inches, Wilson was in good company.
What's more, his 31-inch arm length allowed him to throw with a high release point, making up for the disadvantage a small quarterback has throwing over hulking linemen.
"When I saw him I didn't realize he was just a little bit taller than me," Schneider said. "It's like, 'Whoa.' But he's always played like that. He was throwing with anticipation, he has long arms, the ball comes out high."
Once everyone in the Seahawks organization agreed Wilson could make it, the next step was figuring out where to draft him. To be safe, Schneider had signed Packers backup Matt Flynn in free agency, so not all the team's chips were on Wilson.
Schneider put a third-round grade on Wilson and stuck with it despite some trepidation that he wouldn't fall to the Seahawks' pick at No. 75.
"I just kept pumping up John that he was right saying, 'Let's go with it. We're doing it,'" Carroll said of draft day. "He knew he was, but he needed some support, too, because there was a lot of that conversation in the room. Not everybody knew.
"Not everybody realized what an extraordinary player he would be. John did. So right up to the moment that we took him there was tremendous tension and excitement and all of that."
Almost from the moment Wilson was drafted, he turned his attention to being the starting quarterback. He moved into a place close to the Seahawks facility and began grinding through the playbook.
"He came in with (knowledge of) the playbook," Schneider said. "He ran the first rookie minicamp like he had everything down, like he ran the show. It was pretty impressive. We had him mic'd up. It's pretty cool to watch now."
Wilson tied Manning's rookie record of 26 touchdown passes in 2012, leading the Seahawks within one game of the NFC Championship Game. This season, he threw for 26 touchdowns again and lowered his interceptions from 10 to nine.
In the playoffs, he has not been all that productive, completing 25 of 43 passes for 318 yards and one touchdown, but the Seahawks don't ask him to be Manning or Rodgers. Wilson doesn't call plays at the line of scrimmage like the other two except in 2-minute situations and he doesn't carry the offense on his shoulders.
On Sunday, the Seahawks will ask him just to be Russell Wilson.
"It's not going to always be pretty," Wilson said. "Sometimes it's going to be one of those games where you have to hand it off most of the time because of what the strength of your offensive line is. With the weakness of the defense, sometimes you have to throw over 400 yards.
"I think that for my legacy, I take one day at a time. I think that's my biggest focus. Hopefully, I play for 20 years. Hopefully, I can look back and say, 'Man, that was a great career.' Obviously, I want to win this football game because it's the next one that I have. It doesn't get any better than that."
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