Regardless of whether the team you chose to support in Sunday’s Super Bowl won or loss, can we agree on one point? Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson is the NFL’s higher education Most Valuable Player this season.
It is impossible not to be impressed by the maturity, poise, confidence and leadership consistently demonstrated by the 25-year-old, second-year pro player. He readily references in his media interviews the emphasis his family placed on education. Wilson, who also played baseball , responded by obtaining a bachelor’s degree in Broadcast/Communications in three years at North Carolina State University and a master’s degree in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Wisconsin. In 2011, Diverse selected Wilson as the male winner of the Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar award for outstanding academic and athletic achievement as well as community service.
“I was blessed enough to play professional baseball and get drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round,” Wilson said last week. “I went to spring training and played (Class) A ball for several months and I had the opportunity to go wherever I wanted to go, just because I took care of business academically.”
Wasn’t it refreshing that education was even a topic of discussion in the two-week media blitz leading up to the game? Of course, the controversy over a recent sideline interview that engulfed Wilson’s teammate Richard Sherman, a Stanford grad, sparked the conversation but it’s all good.
We don’t hear enough of the success stories involving athletes and education. We shouldn’t ignore headlines of college football players reading on the 5th grade level and perhaps as sports fans we should show more interest in college athletes’ academic statistics. After all, the dream of playing professional sports dies for the overwhelming majority of student athletes as soon as college athletic eligibility runs out.
Wilson, a grandson of former Norfolk State University President Harrison B. Wilson, was encouraged by his father to be prepared for a career beyond sports. Despite his success on all levels athletically through college, Wilson was not highly rated as a NFL quarterback prospect because at 5-foot-11 he did not fit the prototype for the position.
His determination and preparation paid off. As a result, a young person looking up to Russell Wilson sounds like a pretty good idea.
G.E. Branch III is the Online Editor of Diverse: Issues In Higher Education and previously covered professional sports on a national level for more than 20 years.