Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is gearing up for a Saturday showdown with the Carolina Panthers. This, in what is arguably his best year yet as a quarterback, will be the third consecutive time the young quarterback has led his team into the playoffs. While winning the Super Bowl has always been a goal (one Wilson accomplished in 2014 and looks to repeat), it wasn’t his only goal. Wilson comes from a long line of two-sport athletes and, in addition to being a pro quarterback, he can also call himself a professional baseball player.
It may not have proved as successful as his football career, but here’s what you need to know about Russell Wilson’s baseball career.
1. Wilson Comes From a Family of 2-Sport Athletes
In high school, Wilson was known for his athletic ability on the football field as well as the baseball diamond. After he arrived at North Carolina State University, it didn’t take long for others to learn of his two-sport prowess there, either. But for the Wilson family, this was nothing new.
Wilson’s grandfather, Harrison B. Wilson Jr., spent time on the basketball court in addition to the football field while enrolled at Kentucky State. Wilson’s father, Harrison B. Wilson III, played football and baseball at Dartmouth, and was even a wide receiver for the San Diego Chargers preseason squad in 1980. Similarly, Wilson’s brother Harry was a recognized wide receiver and outfielder for the University of Richmond football and baseball teams.
After graduating from NC State, Wilson had every intention of pursuing football and baseball, telling the Colorado Rockies that he had planned to be, “if not Bo Jackson, maybe a less-amplified Deion Sanders.”
2. Wilson Was Drafted by 3 MLB Teams
Wilson was drafted out of high school by the Baltimore Orioles. They selected him with the 5th pick of the 41st round (1,222nd overall) of the 2007 MLB June Amateur Draft from Collegiate HS in Richmond, Va. The timing, though, wasn’t right for Wilson. “I knew my whole life I wanted to play two sports in college,” he said in a 2008 interview, citing his family’s athletic history.
Wilson was drafted a second time in 2010 by the Colorado Rockies. They selected him in the 4th round (140th overall) of the 2010 MLB June Amateur Draft from North Carolina State University. Wilson would play two seasons in the Colorado farm system for the Tri-City Dust Devils (Class-A) and the Asheville Tourists (Class-A) before making the decision to focus solely on football.
Wilson’s third draft selection came in December 2013, this time by the Texas Rangers. Technically still a member of the Rockies organization, Wilson was left unprotected in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft.
While no official deal was in place, Rangers GM A.J. Preller noted that the selection was a look at the future: “If at some point down the road he decides he wants to do baseball again, we felt like it would be a positive to have him with us.” His work ethic and athleticism are what really stood out, according to the team and Rangers beat writer Jeff Wilson.
3. Wilson Played Second Base
While with the Rockies, Wilson played exclusively at 2B, tallying 31 games at the position in 2010 and another 55 in 2011. He managed a respectable fielding percentage of .983 over the two seasons and participated in turning 60 double plays.
While second base seemed to be Wilson’s future in baseball, his freak athleticism was evident everywhere on the field. “I was watching … and he’s laying out in center field and jumping up against the wall to catch balls,” said Texas Rangers scout Chris Kemp in early 2014. “Then he’s sprinting to shortstop…and scooping up balls there.” This same altheticism was noted at the collegiate level, as well, where Wilson played third base and outfield in addition to second for NC State.
4. He Went to Spring Training With the Rangers
After being drafted by the Rangers in the Rule 5 Draft in December, Russell Wilson was invited to join the team at Spring Training – an invitation he excitedly accepted.
While there, Wilson participated in footwork and fielding drills, but did not participate in batting practice. Wilson also spoke to the team and signed autographs for fans. While the appearance was partly a publicity move, Wilson took the day’s drills and activities seriously, even impressing then-manager Ron Washington. Washington told the Star-Telegram that Wilson “Looked real good. Looked sharp. Baseball is definitely in him.”
5. His Rangers Jersey was a Top Seller
In addition to joining the team for Spring Training, Wilson also received his own Texas Rangers jersey. Wilson was given No. 3 (his football number) and the jersey was also sold online for fans. Within a week, Fanatics.com reported that Wilson’s Rangers jersey was their top selling MLB jersey. The jersey and t-shirts are still available at MLB’s online shop.
A jersey wasn’t all Wilson got, either. Topps Trading Cards got in on the action, too, and created a Russell Wilson baseball card.