PARKER — Russell Wilson talks as if he is reading from a teleprompter. There are no pauses, no mistakes, only a smooth delivery that is part star player, part presidential.
Nothing catches him off guard, a byproduct of his favorite habit.
"Beating the sunrise," Wilson said. "I try to beat the sunrise everyday."
Despite sleeping roughly four-to-five hours a night, Wilson attacks his schedule like a shark. There is no wasted movement, only film to watch, children to inspire, communities to help.
Wilson, 33, executed all three on Friday, the bulk of the day spent working with more than 400 kids at his first Russell Wilson Passing Academy in Colorado and announcing a monthlong fundraiser for he and wife Ciara's Why Not You Foundation in partnership with Safeway.
At Chaparral High School in 100-degree heat, Wilson helped lead drills for campers as they ran routes and fired passes. Wilson used one station to take pictures with campers as his personal quarterbacks coach Jake Heaps — Heaps will leave his Seattle radio job and move to Colorado in late July — kept the lines moving. The camp finished with a dance contest — a boy named Charlie won over the crowd with his splits to a Michael Jackson hit — and Wilson taking questions from an audience of campers and parents.
Wilson made it clear that there is no elevator to the top floor in sports. Hard work is required in the classroom and on the field, and he encouraged parents not to have their kids specialize in sports unless they are "like a top 10 nationally ranked tennis player or something along those lines." Wilson let the crowd know that he plans to finish his career with the Broncos, drawing cheers.
After Wilson high-fived campers, he met with the media, a throng of kids surrounding him. Wilson explained that he started his football camp with a friend as a junior in high school because "that way I could get prepared when I do it in the NFL."
Simply put, he loves working with the kids, and has embraced Colorado.
It remains hard to articulate the thirst Broncos Country has for Wilson's arrival after eating dirt the last six years and pretending it was gourmet.
"It's been a blessing just to come here, to come to an amazing city like Denver and be a part of it with so many amazing teammates and great coaching staff," said Wilson, who took BP at Coors Field with Peyton Manning on Thursday, hitting nine home runs. "Once I knew the trade was going to happen, I wanted to go to a city that wants to win, I wanted to go to a team that wants to win and I wanted to go to a city that knows how to win, and all those things were checked off a box here in Denver. I think we've got a chance."
Wilson hustled off and arrived at a Denver Safeway roughly two hours later. The Russell Wilson and Ciara Why Not You Foundation remains integral to their life and their faith, as the couple is determined to leave an imprint that goes well beyond sports and music. "Much is given, much is required," he told Denver7 at a presser attended by several young students from Denver Public Schools.
An in-store fundraiser was launched to help support equitable education access, food security initiatives, and children’s health. The fundraiser is simple with shoppers asked to round up their bill to the nearest dollar. One hundred percent of the donations raised at 125 Safeway and Albertsons stores across five states will go to the Why Not You Foundation for distribution to organizations working to uplift and empower young people.
At the event, Wilson offered insight into his character and motivation. The Why Not You came from helping convince a cancer patient in Seattle to try an experimental treatment that saved his life after he was given 12-to-18 hours to live. He told the young boy, who was reluctant and upset, "If it doesn't work you won't remember it (said with a smirk to ease the tension), and if it does you will be a miracle. So, Why not you?" Something similar happened in Wilson's life when his mom prayed, he recalled, in his father's hospital room, buying him more time with the family.
The Why Not You Foundation will help people in Colorado. But this wasn't your typical business presser. Wilson's ease with the crowd and the kids proved disarming. At one point, an older woman grabbed the mic and asked, "Why are you at my grocery store doing this while I am shopping?" Wilson laughed and asked what she bought. "Dish soap and gum," she said. "Well, while you were getting that dish soap and gum I was talking about the foundation.. And what kind of soap did you get?" The woman responded, "Dawn!" ... "The good stuff," Wilson agreed as the shopper thanked him and walked out the door.
Responding to kids' queries, Wilson revealed his favorite food to cook (barbecue ribs using his grandmother's recipe), his favorite cake (red velvet cheesecake because he had several pieces the night he and Ciara were married at Peckforton Castle in Liverpool, England) and why he began playing quarterback (it happened in seventh grade after the coach saw him pitch a baseball).
I asked Wilson why it was so important to get involved so soon with the foundation. No one would blame him for taking a year to assimilate given the enormous pressure and expectations on him and his new team.
"Anytime in life you are blessed to do what you do — I am one of 32 people in the world that get to do what I do and God chose me for it — much is given, much is required. It is important to me anytime I walk into a room to try and inspire that room," Wilson explained.
"That's just God's calling on my life. For me coming to this amazing city, this amazing community, it's to make a difference. That's what life's about right? I don't know how many days I have left. Anytime you wake up, I ask, 'What am I trying to accomplish today?' I am trying to have purpose, trying to inspire somebody. Ultimately, I know that I can help. For me, I firmly believe in bringing people together of all different races, all different socio-economic classes. I have an amazing gift to be able to throw a ball, and for whatever reason God graced that ball to help bring people together. So why wouldn't me and Ciara help?"
Wilson walked off the stage a few minutes later, posed for pictures with checkout clerks and shoppers, presented kids with signed jerseys and then exited to his waiting SUV. Wilson always has somewhere to be. To whom much is given, much is required.