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RENTON, Wash. — For all that Russell Wilson rolls with as star quarterback and emerging business tycoon, it was striking to witness yet another dimension of this man who detests limits.
He does impressions, too.
This was discovered after a recent Seattle Seahawks practice, when the 30-year-old Wilson – who last year introduced his alter-ego, “Mr. Unlimited,” with a social media video post – was asked if he’d heard of “The Love Unlimited Orchestra.”
“Oh, yeah, I think I have,” Wilson said. “I’m old school.”
The Love Unlimited Orchestra was a 1970s-era, 40-piece, string-laden orchestra formed by Barry White — years before Wilson was born. Evidently, he’d heard enough somewhere along the way to reflect on White, aka “The Walrus of Love.”
“One of my favorites, man,” he insists. “I got it.”
Then he proves it by popping off a spot-on impression of White’s deep, baritone voice. Who knew?
“I’ve always loved music, had a great appreciation of music,” Wilson said during a 15-minute chat with USA TODAY Sports. “That’s what I grew up on.”
And look him now. As Wilson prepares to open the season against the Bengals on Sunday at CenturyLink Field, the soundtrack of his life has evolved into a shining example of what can be accomplished when limitless vision is fueled with skill, order, efficiency and well, power partnerships.
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Last month, Wilson and his wife, Ciara, the Grammy Award-winning megastar in her own right, joined the ownership group of Major League Soccer’s Seattle Sounders FC. Months before that, they announced the formation of Why Not You Productions to pursue film, TV and digital content. Wilson is CEO of another production company, West2East Empire. He also has a company, Limitless Minds, with his brother, Harry and mental coach, Trevor Moawad, for training and consulting services.
Other business ventures tap into the food and beverage realm (remember Recovery Water?) and Tally, a sports prediction app. There’s a clothing line, too, Good Man Brand.
Oh, and on top of his charity foundation, Wilson is involved in a group that aims to build an arena and lure the NBA back to Seattle, and another group seeking a Major League Baseball franchise for Portland.
That’s a lot of stuff, and surely not even an all-encompassing account of Wilson’s activity.
It’s no wonder that earlier this year Russell and Ciara, parents of two children – and “equally yoked,” Russell said, with a passion to uplift and inspire the world — were at the NFL owners meetings in Phoenix, where they addressed VIPs during an event moderated by Roger Goodell’s wife, Jane.
The gist of the presentation: Time-management. Go figure. Mr. Unlimited is certainly an expert.
That none of this seems to affect his role as the engine that efficiently drives his football team is one reason the Seahawks signed him to four-year, $140 million extension in April that guaranteed $65 million and made him the highest-paid player in NFL history with an average salary of $35 million.
“It’s not something that’s new. I’ve been doing it my whole life,” Wilson explained. “I’ve always been busy. My parents both worked. My dad was a lawyer, my mom was a nurse. That’s what I grew up seeing. Work ethic and character were everything.”
When Wilson was a football-baseball athlete at North Carolina State, his father, Harrison Wilson III (who passed away in 2010), insisted that he take 18 credits a semester – a heavy workload for any student, let alone one playing two Division I sports – in order to graduate within three years. If he was drafted in either sport, his father reasoned, he’d already have his degree.
“That was one of the smartest things he ever told me,” Wilson reflected. “What he didn’t know and I didn’t know at the time, it allowed me to transfer … to Wisconsin and go to grad school. So, it became a blessing in disguise.”
Wilson didn’t miss a season after transferring, which set up what we’ve seen after the Seahawks struck oil in drafting him in the third round: He’s the first quarterback in NFL history to post a winning record in each of his first seven seasons. He’s quarterbacked a Super Bowl winner, rebounded from a Super Bowl loss after a goal-line interception.
The multiple outside interests hardly take an edge off his brilliance as an undersized (says who?), multi-faceted dynamo who keeps getting better.
“Being busy sounds bad,” said Wilson, 5-11, 215. “But having the responsibility and the opportunity to be given a lot and to be responsible for a lot, is a blessing. It’s all about how you organize it. I try to surround myself with amazing people … who make it easy on me, so I can focus on the field. When there’s business to be had, then I do that. My priorities are always my priorities, which obviously include the game of football.”
Ah, football. Wilson is poised to keep inspiring Seahawks hopes after the franchise’s makeover from the Legion of Boom era. When Seattle went to back-to-back Super Bowls during the 2013-14 seasons, Wilson ably complemented the NFL’s best defense. Now Wilson and star linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright are the only starters remaining from those Super Bowl teams.
While the addition of edge rusher Jadeveon Clowney boosts a rebuilding defense, so much of the formula rides one the prolific quarterback. With his contract taking such a huge chunk of the salary cap, that’s a given.
“It doesn’t bother me a bit,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told USA TODAY Sports. “You just have to deal with it. It means that younger players have to … we’ve always been committed to younger players. That’s kind of how we’ve been, anyway.”
Step right up, DK Metcalf. The second-round rookie receiver brings enormous big-play potential, needed to help fill the void left with the retirement of Wilson’s favorite target, Doug Baldwin. Just as intriguing are the prospects for more impact from fifth-year receiver Tyler Lockett, who had career highs across the board last season (57 catches, 965 yards, 10 TDs) as chemistry improved.
Wilson orchestrates the Seahawks offense as a master of improvisation. When Lockett termed it “playground football,” it was an appreciation for the organized chaos that breaks down defenses.
“You’ve just got to know what he’s thinking,” Lockett said. “You what kind of quarterback he is. You kind of play off him. It comes down to trusting your instincts.”
With Wilson, of course, the instincts go so far beyond football. It’s like winning the Super Bowl and ruling the world. When that plan was suggested, he chuckled.
“I want to be able to inspire the world,” Wilson said. “Ciara and I want to inspire the world through sports, music and entertainment. Sports and music, they bring people together of different races, different socioeconomic stats. It’s exciting.”
And like everything else in Wilson’s world, clearly unlimited.
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