By TOM LEA
There seems to be a laundry list of reasons why former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson will anticipate April’s NFL Draft only to be left disappointed.
He didn’t prove enough during his time at North Carolina State. He couldn’t chose between football and baseball. He didn’t have this or he didn’t do that.
Most importantly, he doesn’t have that ideal NFL height.
He’s definitely too short to perform at a serviceable rate at the next level, right?
“The height is not a factor at all,” Wilson, appearing as a guest on Scott Van Pelt’s ESPN Radio show, said. “This has been my perspective my whole entire life. I’ve been very, very efficient and very effective my whole college career. I just stand tall in the pocket and have a high quick release.
“You never really throw over people when you’re playing football. You throw through lanes.”
Wilson finished his one-year stint in Madison with 3,175 passing yards and 33 touchdowns, both school records. He only threw four interceptions and helped the Badgers overcome two devastating losses to Michigan State and Ohio State midway through the season.
But all anybody wants to focus on is his height, completely disregarding the fact that he compiled one of the best statistical years in Big Ten history behind UW’s offensive line, a unit that measured the fourth largest in all of football, NFL teams included.
“The only way you throw over somebody is if you’re 6-foot-8,” Wilson said. “In today’s football a lot of the guys are 6-foot-7 defensive ends so you don’t throw over them. Really, you throw through lanes. The only time you throw the football over somebody is when you’re throwing it deep.
“It’s one of those things you have to know the game and play one play at a time and deliver the ball with accuracy.”
Wilson did that during his senior season in Madison. In fact, the first-team All-Big Ten quarterback finished the year with a 191.8 passer efficiency rating, best of all time at the bowl subdivision level.
During last week’s NFL Combine, Wilson ran the 40-yard dash in 4.55 seconds, a number just faster than projected No. 1 overall pick Andrew Luck. He also recorded a vertical jump of 34 inches, a broad jump of 118 inches and ran the three-cone drill in 6.97 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 4.09 seconds.
He’s also smart.
According to Wilson, the fact he picked up then-offensive coordinator Paul Chryst’s playbook in essentially one month during fall camp is going over well with scouts.
“I think that’s an attractive quality to a lot of teams,” Wilson said. “When you play in the NFL you have to be able to adjust and you have to be able to go into a new system. I’ve played in a west coast style of offense and went to Wisconsin and played in a vertical play-action type game. So those two offenses really helped me pretty much with every single team.
“I think that is going to intrigue a lot of teams and they believe that I could be a pretty good draft pick.”
What if the doubters are right, though?
What if the decision-makers on draft day gloss over Wilson’s ability because of his height? What if he slips deeper into the draft or goes undrafted completely?
Wilson has a plan…kind of.
“I’ll just continue to focus on football,” Wilson said. “And I truly believe that the Lord is going to bless me and I’m excited about the opportunity of playing in the NFL for a really long time. I’m just taking it one day at a time and it will all work out.
“I know it will.”
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