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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

February 7, 2014 at 12:49 PM

How Russell Wilson connects a Seahawks fan to his father, sons

Ralph Wiley (right), poses with his father and son. Photo courtesy of Ralph Wiley

Dan  Wiley, left, with his grandson and son Robbie in 2011.
Photo courtesy of Ralph Wiley

By Robbie Wiley

My dad was born and raised in a small town called Taylor, Neb., and was the biggest Nebraska football fan I’ve ever known.  On Oct. 1, 2011, I was in my parent’s living room with him watching the Cornhuskers take on the Wisconsin Badgers. The Big Red started out hot, but the Badgers proved to be too much, blowing the Huskers out, 48-17.

I looked over at my dad at the end of the game, feeling terrible for him.

“No. 16 for the Badgers can play,” Dad said, shaking his head in disbelief. “Did you see him?  That kid is special.  He’s going to be playing and winning games on Sundays.”

More than six months later, I checked my voice mail and heard Dad’s excited voice.

“We got a good one, buddy,” Dad said.

The Seahawks had drafted a quarterback, and it the Wisconsin kid who tore up his Huskers. The  kid the Seahawks drafted was Russell Wilson.

A few days later, I showed Dad the video of Jon Gruden’s QB Camp when Wilson was his guest.  Gruden spoke highly of Wilson and tried to rattle him about his height on more than occasion.  He didn’t take the bait, reiterating that he can make all the throws. Gruden brought up different packages on screens.  Wilson called them all out.  At the end of the segment, Gruden said the team that drafts Wilson will get a steal.

My dad was grinning ear to ear.

I’ll never forget the words spoken by Wilson following a heartbreaking loss to the Atlanta Falcons in last year’s playoffs.

“When the game was over, I was very disappointed, but right before I got back to the tunnel, walking off the field, I got so excited for the next opportunity next year,” Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to what we have in the future. We have a great football team.”

Quite the reaction from a rookie quarterback. I watched that game with Dad, too.  My dad was ever the optimist; very little in life could get him down.  When the Seahawks fell behind 27-7 in the third quarter, I figured the game was over.

Dad reminded me who the Seahawks had at quarterback and told me to cheer up and have faith. Seattle scored 21 unanswered point, but lost in Atlanta, ending their season.

“Don’t worry, buddy,” Dad said, in an attempt to console me.  “Look at their quarterback.  This is just the start.”

That game was the last I would watch with my my dad. My hero passed away unexpectedly on March 25, 2013.

I am an emotional guy.  Losing my dad has been the hardest thing I have ever experienced.  I can tie nearly everything in my life to him.  He has always been there for me, in the best of times and the worst of times ­- and that includes being a Seahawks fan.

I started loving this team on a day when I sat by my dad and watched his excitement as Steve Largent caught the 100th touchdown pass of his career.  I was 8 years old.  He went to exactly one game with my brother and I, a 41-7 thrashing delivered to the Seahawks by the New York Giants.  It was a brutal game, but my dad kept it light.

“Don’t worry, guys,” he told me and my brother. I enjoyed a New York Giants football game today.  I was with you guys.  It was fun.”

He was always the glass half-full guy and that is one of the many things I miss the most about him.

Super Bowl champions

My quality of life has not magically improved since the Seahawks have claimed the title of Super Bowl Champions.  I still have a job to go to and bills to pay.  But I love this team.  No longer can friends ask me where my Super Bowl rings or Lombardi trophies are.

Yet  there’s more. In a sense, the Seahawks are a continuation of my childhood that I enjoyed with my dad and I refuse to let go of.  Maybe one day I’ll outgrow it, but not today. There’s way too much life and football left, and I’m raising three boys of my own.

But there’s more to my love for the Seahawks, my joy over their Super Bowl victory, and thata connection goes back to their quarterback. Russell Wilson didn’t get to share this day with his dad. Before the Super Bowl, that hit me as I heard a pregame interview in which he talked about his dad. As I  listened, I fought back a flood of tears, remembering my dad and how much he impacts my life on a daily basis.

As I heard Wilson speak about his dad and thought about mine, I knew there is not another quarterback in the league that I would rather have lead my team.  His statistics and accolades speak for themselves, but it’s who he is as a young man that reveals the future success that this team will have.  He’s every bit as present in the community as he is on the football field.

I could almost here my dad’s voice: “I told you, buddy. Didn’t I tell you? Russell Wilson. Remember when he brutalized my Huskers? Just hearing him talk after that game told me all I needed to know. I told you when the Seahawks drafted him that they had found their quarterback. Your old man was pretty smart on that one. Go Hawks!”

Life can make football look small and insignificant. For my dad and me, football became one of the many ways we would connect.  It operates as a bridge between many fathers and sons everywhere.

I watched the Super Bowl at home with my wife and three young sons.  As I pulled the No. 3 Wilson jersey over the head of our 3-year-old son before kickoff, it all came into focus.  Now, it’s my turn to be the one who creates these memories for my boys.  Growing up, they will never have to hear about the lack of rings or Lombardi Trophies from their friends.

I’d say the Seahawks have given us a pretty good start.

Thanks, Dad.

Robbie Wiley, 32, works at a correctional facility in Connell and lives in West Pasco with his wife and three sons. He has been a Seahawks fan since he was 8, when watched the legendary Steve Largent catch his 100th touchdown pass of his career in 1989.

The Take 2 blog will go dark for a while, with readers’ submitted essays that usually run there in the Seahawks blog. Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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