Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson made headlines recently when, in an interview that is slated to air later this month on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel,” he intimated that he hasn’t given up on the dream of playing two sports professionally.
Wilson was a baseball and football star at North Carolina State and played two years of professional baseball in Colorado’s farm system before turning his attention full-time to football. That has proven — so far — to be a wise choice, as he’s gone to two Super Bowls and won one while establishing himself, at age 26, as one of the up-and-coming QBs in the NFL.
Still, the baseball question nags him. He reportedly said during the taping of the show, when asked why he hasn’t tried harder to pursue both sports professionally: “I don’t know. I may push the envelope a little bit one of these days.”
It brings to mind images of Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders, two phenomenal athletes who played simultaneously in the NFL and MLB a generation ago. It also makes me wonder: Would that kind of thing fly these days?
Sports were big-time in the 1980s and 1990s, when Jackson (and to a slightly lesser degree Sanders) were pulling their double duty. Jackson famously played out the baseball season with the Royals in 1987, joining the Raiders midstream in the NFL season. Sanders in 1992 tried to play in two games in one day — a Braves playoff game and a Falcons regular-season game.
With as much as is at stake now, though, would teams really consent to that? Would the NFL’s Seahawks and MLB Team X consent to Wilson splitting duty, risking injury and games missed on both ends? I tend to think they wouldn’t, particularly since Wilson plays arguably the most important position in all of pro sports.
So it begs further questions: Would Wilson, if baseball really is a passion that still burns within him, consider giving up a career in which he is already established as a success for one that will require a lot more work? He had a .229 batting average (though with a very respectable .356 on-base percentage) in 379 career minor league at-bats, none above the Class A level.
That would take a huge leap of faith and a confidence bordering on hubris, but pro athletes aren’t usually shy about believing in their abilities.
Also, it makes one wonder if, in the back of his mind, Wilson has doubts about whether a long-term career in the NFL is wise or sustainable because of health concerns.
Wilson is said to be negotiating a contract extension with Seattle that will earn him enough to live on for the rest of his life. Perhaps this is a just a negotiating ploy. Or maybe it’s a serious thought that a confident athlete is having while considering his future from a lot of angles.