IRVING, Texas -Believe it or not, there was a punter selected five picks ahead of Russell Wilson in the 2012 NFL draft.
The quarterback who will be taking the field opposite the Cowboys defense this Sunday was selected in the third round, with the 75th overall pick. Why did he drop so low when quarterbacks with similar college accomplishments like Brandon Weeden and Ryan Tannehill were taken in the first round? Most scouts would claim that he is simply too short.
There is an unwritten rule in the NFL that you have to be over 6-0 (or be Doug Flutie) to be a successful quarterback in the league. Never mind the fact Wilson is 5'11 and you could probably measure the difference in height between he and Drew Brees with your fingernail. Or the fact he recorded 33 touchdowns and just four interceptions in his final season at Wisconsin. Or that he is a phenomenal athlete who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies and seems to have the intangibles of a leader.
Most teams focused simply on his height.
While Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo does happen to be over 6-0, the fact he attended Eastern Illinois rather than a well-known division-one school caused every single team to pass up on him in the 2003 draft, despite having broken a number of conference records his senior season.
Wilson explains that while he was going through the frustrating process coming into and during the draft, he was motivated by the thought of quarterbacks like Romo who weren't even mentioned on draft night, but still went on to have a successful career.
"I have tons of respect for Tony Romo," Wilson said. "Watching guys like that who can play the game at a very, very high level and maximize their potential. Playing at a high level for an extended period of time is not easy to do, so you have to have a lot of respect for them."
Wilson believes Romo and fellow quarterback Tom Brady, a sixth-round pick, have proven draft order is not an important indicator of talent and he hopes to further prove that.
"I think more than anything, it's not necessarily where you get drafted or what people think of you on the outside," Wilson said. "It's more about your interior motivation and your interior thought of yourself. It's just going out there and knowing what you're doing and playing great football."
Despite his fall in the draft, Wilson earned the starting job with the Seahawks beating out Matt Flynn, whom the team had recently signed to a $19.5 million contract. Wilson's performance in the preseason did not only impress the Seahawks' coaching staff, the Cowboys were also impressed with the young QB, as head coach Jason Garrett explained.
"He is a rookie but he doesn't play like a rookie," Garrett said. "He plays very maturely."
Wilson is a dangerous quarterback to face because he is an accurate thrower who can take off running at any moment. The Cowboys' pass rush will have to put pressure on him, but also be disciplined in their containment as to not open up lanes for him to run.
Defensive lineman Jason Hatcher confirms that the preparation they are taking for Wilson is well worth it.
"He's very poised in the pocket," Hatcher said. "He looks like he has been there a dozen times the way he's playing … He's one of the best rookies I've ever watched on film."
Wilson rushed eight times in his first start, a loss to Arizona on Sunday.
"He does have great movement," Garrett elaborated. "When you're a young quarterback figuring things out, to be able to move to get out of trouble is really an asset."
Wilson did not have the huge impact that Robert Griffin III had in his debut as Wilson was unable to lead Seattle past the Arizona Cardinals, though he at least had the Seahawks in position late in the game. It's likely he'll only get better with more games under his belt.* *
"I feel like I played well, but there's always room to improve," Wilson said. "The thing about playing the quarterback position, the goal is to win every time, and that's the main focus so I'm a little disappointed, but we've moved on."
Jason Garret certainly doesn't look at Wilson's Week 1 ups and downs as a fair indicator of his ability as a quarterback. He points towards the way he carries himself as someone who belongs in the league.
"He certainly has demonstrated that, maybe as much as anything else, it's his poise and composure," Garrett said. "He looks like he knows what he is doing and that's the impressive part of it."
Wilson's emergence as the starting quarterback has brought a certain level of excitement to the Seahawks organization, but he knows that in order to maintain that level of excitement the team will have to put together some wins. Few things generate more buzz than a win over America's Team.
"Their pass rush is top notch for sure," Wilson said. "They have some of the best in the game. The main thing is just playing our game and playing physical."
There was once a day when it was a defense's dream to be able to face a rookie quarterback who has yet to record his first victory in the NFL. But Jason Garrett knows that if the Cowboys underestimate Wilson's ability, they will likely pay for it.
"We can't look at it like this is a rookie quarterback," Garrett said. "This is a good quarterback and we've got to get ready for him."