PARKER, Colo. — There is the team Russell Wilson plays for.
And there is Team Russell Wilson. It consists of Wilson, his personal trainer, his own strength and conditioning coach, a massage therapist and his own private quarterback coach. They are aside from Broncos coaches Nathaniel Hackett, Justin Outten and Klint Kubiak.
The personal help is all there to help Wilson become the best quarterback possible for the Denver Broncos.
Team Russell Wilson helped the Broncos’ new star quarterback conduct his Russell Wilson Passing Academy for about 500 kids, aged 7 through 18, on a hot, sunny Friday at Chaparral High. Helping Wilson run his youth football camps is where Jake Heaps broke in as Wilson’s personal quarterbacks coach.
They first met when Heaps, a former 5-star high school recruit and starter at BYU and Kansas, was an undrafted first-year player on the Seahawks’ practice squad in 2016. He was in Wilson’s quarterbacks room again as a member of the Seahawks' 90-man roster in the offseason of 2017.
“When I was trying to make the team on and off for a couple years, he and I really connected just through the work and the process,’’ Heaps said from the sideline as Wilson was finishing up his passing academy with a camper dance contest. “Him seeing my work ethic, we really connected on that level. We got started with the youth camps, working with the next generation of quarterbacks. And then I got a random phone call five years ago asking me to come work out with him. I didn’t know it was a tryout but I’ve been with him ever since. It’s been a lot of fun.”
Follow the journeys of Wilson day by day is to assume he is not one who enjoys lounging on his couch, watching sports. After his passing academy was finished at around 1:45 p.m. – 45 minutes later than scheduled as he posed for a photograph with each of the estimated 500 campers and signed autographs for all those asked – he rushed off to a 3 p.m. “Why Not You” Foundation event at a Safeway store. Sometime soon, he and his family are flying over to Europe and taking several of his teammates with him.
Oh, and on Thursday morning, the day before his camp and the day after the Broncos’ offseason program concluded, he took batting practice and infield grounders with former Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning at Coors Field. Wilson, a former Colorado Rockies minor league second baseman, hit about 8 or 9 BP homers in the session and NFL Films was there to tape it.
“I was swinging away, baby,’’ Wilson said. “It was fun. Obviously Peyton and I got really, really close over the years, especially as of late spending time together, watching film. I’ve always admired him. I went to his camp, The Manning Passing Academy years ago in Thibodeau, La. And I was one of 12 kids, kind of like this little circle here. And just because of that opportunity they gave me inspired me that much more. And hopefully I can do that for some other kids.
“But, yeah, we were having a good time. Peyton was hitting some base hits. He didn’t hit any out but he got close on two of them.”
That Wilson calls his camp a Passing Academy is a nod to the Manning family. Wilson organized and led his first Russell Wilson Passing Academy when he was a junior in high school in Richmond, Va.
“Yeah, the first camp kind of like this I went to was the Manning Passing Camp,’’ Wilson said. “So I said you know what, let’s call it the Russell Wilson Passing Academy. RWPA. Sounded good, sounded cool. That was in high school and it’s lived on since.”
Who is this guy? Wilson is a guy dedicated to being the best quarterback he can be, but his aspirations seem much larger.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to do the Russell Wilson Passing Academy all over. We’ve gone all over the world, really,’’ Wilson said.
His college towns of Raleigh. N.C. and Madison, Wis. Seattle, of course.
“My first camp was actually high school,’’ Wilson said. “I was a junior. And my best friend Scott, I said 'Hey let’s run a camp.' That way we get prepared to do it in the NFL. That’s what we did.”
A junior in high school, no more than 5-foot-11, preparing to run youth camps once he makes it in the NFL? As if there was a doubt.
“We’ve met probably over 12,000 kids now at this point,’’ he said. “I remember we took a tour bus from Raleigh, North Carolina all the way to Chicago. We stopped in Chicago, we went to Wisconsin. We drove all the way out to Seattle, did Seattle. We’ve done Vancouver. We’ve done L.A. We’ve done China. We’ve done Shanghai. We’ve done Beijing. We’ve done Europe. It’s been amazing, we’ve gone international.
“And so to me to implement myself here in Denver and doing all those other major cities around the world, internationally, obviously Denver, Colorado, Seattle’s meant a lot to me, my colleges, it’s about the kids. It’s about giving back. It’s about trying to make a difference in the world and these are the stars. They’re the future. These are the guys and the girls who are really special that are hopefully going to make a difference in the world and helpfully I can give them a glimpse of what that looks like.”
But first, there is football. It’s why he has Team Wilson on his payroll.
“To come to an amazing city like Denver, to be a part of it with some amazing teammates, a great coaching staff,’’ Wilson said. “But also once I came here, once the trade was going to happen I was like, ‘Hey, listen, I want to make sure I’m going to a city that wants to win. I want to make sure I’m going to a team that wants to win. And I want to go to a city that knows how to win. And all those three things were checked off the box here in Denver. And I think we’ve got a chance.”
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