Wilson shows Manning how it's done
EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY
HE WENT into the game as the other quarterback - the undersized and underestimated foil to the record-setting, commercial-pitching Denver Broncos star, Peyton Manning.
But it took only one half of Seattle's 43-8 win in Super Bowl XLVIII for Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson to upstage Manning on the game's biggest stage, dialling up a cooler, better-orchestrated performance.
He used his underdog status as fuel, as he has done in his football career, whether related to his size (1.8m), his career choice (deemed a better fit for baseball), his draft status (sixth quarterback selected in 2012) or his marketability (tucked away in the Pacific North-west).
"My dad used to tell me, 'Russ, why not you?'" Wilson said. "And what that meant was believe in yourself, believe in the talent God has given you, even though you are 5 foot 11, and you can go a long way. That's why I decided to play football. I wanted to go against the odds a little bit."
Indeed, Wilson did not receive the Super Bowl's Most Valuable Player (MVP) recognition, but he outplayed the league's MVP, Manning, finishing with a sparkling line: 206 yards, two touchdowns, 18 of 25 passing, including 11 completions in a row in the second half.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll considered it "a perfect football game".
Wilson, 12 years Manning's junior, appeared in complete control, while the Denver star - from the moment a high snap slipped past his fingertips on the opening play from scrimmage, leading to a safety - appeared woefully out of sync.
"We weren't sharp offensively from the get-go," admitted Manning, a four-time National Football League (NFL) MVP who pocketed an NFL-best US$13 million (S$17 million) in endorsement income last year. "We needed to play really well in order to win, and we didn't come anywhere close to that."
Wilson, who makes about US$1 million a year off the field, remained modest after the game, noting: "At the end of the day, I wasn't playing Peyton Manning.
"I was doing my job and doing all the things I needed to do to help the offence move the ball down the field."
And, now, he looks set to be handsomely rewarded for having done his job well.
Madison Avenue executives will flock to Wilson now, said Mr Bob Dorfman, executive director of San Francisco-based Baker Street Advertising.
Seattle's win, he said, will result in at least another US$2 million in endorsements, about four times what the second-year player was paid by the Seahawks this season. Manning, in contrast, was paid about US$17.5 million by the Broncos.
"Small in stature, big in performance, personality, brains, charisma and hair, Russell Wilson has the goods to be a convincing - and scandal-free - pitchman for years to come," Mr Dorfman said.
Mr Steve Rosner, co-founder and partner of 16W Sports Marketing, said of Wilson: ''He's everything right about the NFL. When the NFL comes calling, the league sponsors are going to line up."