From the moment I stepped foot on the campus of Fork Union Military Academy in Fork Union, Virginia (huh? Exactly) as a 16 year old competing for a roster spot on the legendary Blue Devil football team, the name Russell Wilson was branded into my psyche.
Somewhat of a mythical being at that point - Wilson was the star quarterback, point guard and pitcher of our main athletic rival, Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia - the quintessential exclusive prep school that served as a perfect foil to the convict-like perception of Fork Union. In the bizarre-o world of "high-stakes" prep football in Virginia, every detail about your opponent is known (or made up). I was led to believe by my future teammates that not only was Russell Wilson 100% Cherokee Indian, but that he was also 100% Hindu and that aided him in being an agile quarterback (think Dhalsim from Street Fighter). We watched game tape of him in complete, stunned silence-- though I may be the only person who will admit that.
There was pure hatred for everything Collegiate and Russell Wilson stood for. It wasn't just that they had beaten FUMA in the state title game the year before, it was the dichotomy between the lives back home for the cadets at FUMA and the lives back home for the kids who went to Collegiate. I can't repeat the things we said about him, but let's just say "cornball brother" would have been on the nicer side. To add fuel to the fire, their star receiver, Zach Mendez, who would go on to play at UVA, had just been featured on MTV's Made: I Want to be (wait for it) a FIGURE SKATER.
Let's just say the rivalry was lively.
I barely made the team. Hanging on as a special team dummy getting substantial playing-time late in games because we blew out a lot of our competition. We had guys like Brandon Caleb who would go onto play at Oklahoma and Jamal Schulters (brother of NFL safety Lance Schulters) who still plays in Europe. The game against Collegiate and Wilson came up somewhere around mid-October, and would be the barometer for how we matched up before when we would ultimately play them in the state championship.
We lost 46-16
"Everywhere Russell Wilson went, he won people over. One night in a big game against Fork Union Military Academy, Wilson ran for a first down, headed out of bounds, and a linebacker called him a wuss. A couple of Fork Union fans repeated the word, which was actually a bit more inflammatory than wuss, and taunted Wilson." - ESPN.com
I can tell you this: the word "wuss" has never been used by a Fork Union cadet since 1897. Also, we don't have "fans". We have 500 semi-trained teenage delinquents dressed in uniform with the verbal abuse ingenuity of a Marine Corps drill sergeant. Russell Wilson endured some of the most heinous taunting I've ever heard in my life - and this wasn't even basketball season.
"Hank Carter, who worked the chain gang for the game, told the kids that isn't who Wilson is. The next drive, Wilson knocked over the linebacker and ran for a first down.
"The two guys came up to me after the game," Carter said, "and say, 'Sir, you're absolutely right. We'll never say another word.'"
A month later we would lose the prep league state championship to Collegiate and Russell Wilson 56-14.
Did I mention we were only juniors that year?
I was fortunate enough to cross paths and have a drink with Wilson's high school receiver Zach Mendez (yes, the figure skater guy). Zach played receiver at UVA with my childhood friend Peter Lalich, an Elite 11 quarterback from West Springfield who, coincidentally enough, was hand-picked by Al Groh over Wilson because of his prototypical size.
"When he went to NC State because UVA thought he was too short, he was the No. 5 quarterback on the depth chart - by week one he was the starter. It only took a week in May and maybe 500 snaps for Pete Carroll to love him. He got drafted to play baseball out of HS and didn't even flinch. You knew it then and we all knew it then - he was going to be something special no matter what it was."
By September he would be the first rookie to start for the Seahawks since 1993.
I won't sit here and pretend to be an expert on Russell Wilson because I tackled him 2 ½ times at the end of a football game; but even as a 16 year old punk, I realized the value of a player who can get inside the head of an entire football team with a confident smile. I've followed the careers of great players I had the chance to play against or practice with or cover as a high school sports writer; but maybe none as closely as I've followed Wilson's.
The reasons RG3 and Russell Wilson, and dare I say-Tim Tebow-are successful have nothing to do with how tall they are, how they throw a football, how fast they run or how hard they pray. Intangibles make great players.
So here we meet again Mr. Wilson. You are quarterbacking the team that will face my beloved Redskins in mere days. A cruel twist in the micro-quantum universe has led you back into my life for another chance to crush my hopes and dreams. I've rooted for your success for months, if not years, so I could one day say "hey guys I told you so" - but today, this week, I will once again question your manhood and hope you break your leg.
May God have mercy on your soul.