Last night, the Seattle Seahawks became the first team to clinch a playoff spot, thanks to the superhero-like feats of second-year quarterback Russell Wilson. The former Wisconsin standout—and recent Men’s Fitness cover boy—posted 310 yards in the air and 47 yards on the ground, with three passing touchdowns. The 11-1 Seahawks routed the New Orleans Saints 34-7.
“There are no doubts about him anymore,” said Steve Mariucci, an analyst on the NFL Network and former NFL and college coach, referring to those who have routinely called attention to Wilson’s smaller stature (he’s only 5’11”) and style of play (collegiate read-option). In the 2012 draft, Wilson was regarded more as an extra than a leading man; he was drafted 75th, far below his fellow quarterbacks Andrew Luck (who replaced Peyton Manning for the Indianapolis Colts) and the Washington Redskins’ Robert Griffin III. “The people who felt he should be a third-rounder or a fourth-rounder or whatever,” says Mariucci, “I’m sure they have changed their tune and said, ‘Hey, had we known he was going to be this smart, this poised and this tough, anybody would have taken him in the first round.’”
The numbers don’t lie. According to the Elias Sports Bureau there are only four quarterbacks who have 20 or more touchdown passes in each of their first two seasons: Dan Marino, Peyton Manning, Andy Dalton, and Russell Wilson. The 25-year old also has 22 regular-season wins, tied for most-ever with two-time Super Bowl champ Ben Roethlisberger. By game’s end Seattle fans were chanting “M-V-P.” Wilson is making a pretty strong case: his quarterback rating (108.5) is fifth in the NFL and second among second-year quarterback, trailing only Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles, who has 12 career starts in two seasons.
In addition to his God-given abilities, what are his workout secrets? Wilson told us that he combines a strict diet along with a strength-training program that included lifting weights four days a week to go from 208 to 216 pounds in the off-season. He split sessions between two “speed days” that focused on Olympic weightlifting exercises (power cleans, snatches) that develop power and explosiveness, and two strength days that include heavier lifting. See video of his workout here. As he told us, “my ultimate goal professionally is to be one of the best to ever play the game, and I think I’ve got a long way to go.”
Closer than he thought.