Wilson was selected by the Seattle Seahawks with the 12th pick in the third round (75th overall) of the 2012 NFL Draft. In 2012, he tied Peyton Manning's record for most passing touchdowns by a rookie (26) and was named the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Year. In 2013, he led the Seahawks to their first ever Super Bowl victory, and in 2014, led them to a second straight Super Bowl berth. Wilson has won more games (46) than any other NFL quarterback in his first four seasons, and is currently the second highest rated NFL passer of all time behind Aaron Rodgers. On July 31, 2015, Wilson signed a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension with the Seahawks, making him, at the time, the second highest paid player in the NFL.
As a senior in 2006, he threw for 3,009 yards, 34 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Wilson also rushed for 1,132 yards and 18 touchdowns. That year, he was named an all-conference and all-state player as well as conference player of the year. He was featured in Sports Illustrated magazine for his performance in the state championship game win. Wilson also served as his senior class president.
In addition to playing football, Wilson was also a member of the Collegiate School basketball and baseball teams.
Wilson redshirted during the 2007 season at NC State. In 2008, Wilson initially split time at quarterback with senior Daniel Evans and junior Harrison Beck. However, Evans and Beck saw no regular season action after Week 2 and Week 5, respectively. Thereafter, Wilson led the team to a 4–3 record in the regular season which NC State finished out on a four-game winning streak. During a win over East Carolina, Wilson threw for 201 yards and three touchdowns. He threw for two touchdowns in each of the last six games in the regular season.
In the 2008 PapaJohns.com Bowl against Rutgers, Wilson threw for 186 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 46 yards before halftime. Late in the first half, he scrambled to the Rutgers' four-yard line, where he was tackled and suffered a knee sprain. With Wilson sitting out the remainder of the game, his replacements threw a combined total of three interceptions with NC State eventually losing, 23–29. Over the course of the season, he completed 150 of 275 attempts for 1,955 yards and 17 touchdowns with just one interception. He also recorded 116 carries for 394 yards and four touchdowns. The Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) named him the first-team All-ACC quarterback. It was the first time in the conference's history that a freshman quarterback was named to the first team.
Prior to the 2009 season, Wilson was named as the quarterback on the pre-season all-ACC football team on July 12. On September 19, Wilson broke Andre Woodson's all-time NCAA record of 325 consecutive pass attempts without an interception against Gardner-Webb. The 379-pass streak ended in a game against Wake Forest on October 3. Wilson held the record until November 10, 2012, when it was broken by Louisiana Tech quarterback Colby Cameron.
Wilson led the 2010 Wolfpack to a 9–4 season that included a 23–7 win over West Virginia in the 2010 Champs Sports Bowl. He led the ACC in passing yards per game (274.1) and total offensive yards per game (307.5). In May 2010, Wilson graduated from NC State in three years with a BA in communication, and took graduate-level business courses in the fall semester during the 2010 football season.
In January 2011, Wilson announced that he would report to spring training with the Colorado Rockies organization. NC State head coach Tom O'Brien expressed reservations with Wilson's decision, saying "Russell and I have had very open conversations about his responsibilities respective to baseball and football. While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to NC State football."
O'Brien and his staff reached out to NFL coaches and general managers on Wilson's behalf, but he failed to receive an invitation to the 2011 NFL Scouting Combine.
On April 29, 2011, O'Brien announced that Wilson had been granted a release from his football scholarship with one year of eligibility remaining.
In the season opener against UNLV, Wilson passed for 255 yards and 2 touchdowns in a 51–17 victory. He also rushed for 62 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown run. At the end of the regular season, Wilson was named first team All-Big Ten by both the coaches and media. Wilson also won the Griese-Brees Big Ten Quarterback of the Year award.
In the 2012 Rose Bowl against the Oregon Ducks on January 2, 2012, Wilson had 19 pass completions on 25 attempts for 296 yards, 18 rushing yards, and 3 touchdowns (2 passing, 1 rushing). The Badgers lost the game by a score of 38–45.
Wilson finished the season with 33 passing touchdowns, which set the single season record at Wisconsin and was the second-most in Big Ten history behind Drew Brees during the 1998 season at Purdue (39). Wilson also set the single season FBS record for passing efficiency (191.8).
On January 28, 2012, Wilson completed his college football career at the 2012 Senior Bowl.
Prior to the 2012 NFL Draft, Wilson had been projected by NFL scouts and analysts to be a middle-round pick. In February 2012, former NFL quarterback and director of the IMG Madden Football Academy Chris Weinke said of Wilson, "If he was 6–5, he'd probably be the No. 1 pick in the draft." On April 11, 2012, ESPNMonday Night Football analyst Jon Gruden said, "The only issue with Russell Wilson is his height. That might be the reason he's not picked in the first couple rounds."
On April 27, 2012, Wilson was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the third round (75th pick overall) of the draft. The Seahawks endured significant negative criticism for their selections in the 2012 draft, and for picking Russell Wilson in particular as the Seahawks had just signed free agent Matt Flynn.
Wilson against the Minnesota Vikings on November 4, 2012
2012: Rookie season
Wilson signed a four-year, $2.99 million contract with the Seahawks on May 7, 2012. He made his preseason debut against the Tennessee Titans on August 11, 2012 and had his first preseason start on August 24 against the Kansas City Chiefs. On August 26, 2012, Wilson was named the starting quarterback for the first regular season game after competing with Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson for the position.
Wilson earned the Pepsi NFL Rookie of the Week honors for his stellar week 10 performance in a 28–7 victory over the New York Jets. He threw 12 completions on 19 attempts for 188 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 7 rushing attempts for 34 yards. Wilson was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week and FedEx Air Player of the Week for his week 13 performance in the 23–17 Seahawks win over the Chicago Bears. He earned NFL Offensive Rookie of the Month honors for December 2012 after the Seahawks went 5–0 and Wilson achieved a passer rating of 115.2.
Wilson finished the 2012 regular season ranked 4th in the NFL in passer rating (100.0), beating the previous rookie record set by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004 (98.1), since broken by Robert Griffin III in 2012 (102.4) and Dak Prescott in 2016 (104.9). He threw for 3,118 yards and 26 touchdowns, tying Peyton Manning's record for most touchdowns thrown by a rookie, and rushed for 489 yards and four touchdowns. Wilson's scrambling mobility and ability to extend plays outside the pocket with his legs earned numerous comparisons to Hall of Fame quarterback Fran Tarkenton.
Wilson led the Seahawks to the postseason in his rookie year. He made his postseason debut in the NFC Wild Card Round against the Washington Redskins, passing for 187 yards and rushing for 67 yards as the Seahawks rallied for a 24–14 comeback victory over the Redskins. During the divisional round against the Atlanta Falcons, Wilson threw for 385 yards and rushed for 60 yards but the Seahawks lost the game by a score of 28–30.
Wilson was selected as an alternate for the 2013 Pro Bowl, filling in for Matt Ryan. At the Pro Bowl, Wilson threw 8 completions on 10 attempts for 98 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a 147.1 rating.
At the end of the season, Wilson earned a bonus of $222,000 through the NFL's Performance-Based Pay program.
2013: Super Bowl season
Wilson at the 2013 Jessie Vetter Classic, July 1, 2013
Wilson's Seahawks opened the 2013 season with the first 4–0 start in franchise history, after which they lost to the Colts in week 5. The Seahawks then went on a 7-game winning streak, culminating in a 34–7 victory over the Saints in Week 13 in which Wilson threw three touchdown passes and earned his second NFC Offensive Player of the Week award. Over the next three weeks, the Seahawks would suffer 2 divisional losses to the 49ers and Cardinals (the loss to the Cardinals represented Wilson's first home loss as QB for the Seahawks), but defeated the Rams in Week 17 to finish the season with a 13–3 record, the NFC West title, and the No. 1 seed in the playoffs. Wilson finished the season with 26 touchdown passes, 9 interceptions, and a 101.2 passer rating, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to post a 100+ passer rating in each of his first 2 seasons. Wilson was named to his second Pro Bowl on December 27, 2013. On January 19, 2014, Wilson and the Seahawks defeated the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, 23–17, sending the Seahawks to Super Bowl XLVIII. Wilson threw for 206 yards, 2 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a 123.1 passer rating in the 43–8 defeat over the Denver Broncos. With the victory, Wilson became just the second black starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl, joining Super Bowl XXII winner Doug Williams. In addition to this, Wilson, at 5'11" tall, became the shortest quarterback to win a Super Bowl, shorter than Len Dawson, Joe Theismann, and Drew Brees (all 6'0").
Wilson earned a bonus of $169,141.73 for the 2013 season through the NFL's Performance-Based Pay program.
On September 21, 2014, Wilson led the Seahawks on an 80-yard touchdown drive in overtime to defeat the Denver Broncos, 26–20, in a Week 3 rematch of the previous season's Super Bowl. On October 6, 2014, against the Washington Redskins, Wilson set a new Monday Night Football record for rushing yards by a quarterback in a single game with 122. The Seahawks clinched a playoff spot in Week 16 when the Dallas Cowboys defeated the Indianapolis Colts 42–7, eliminating the Philadelphia Eagles from postseason contention and allowing the Seahawks to clinch before their Sunday Night matchup. On December 21, 2014, Russell Wilson went 20/31 and threw for 339 yards with 2 touchdown passes and a rushing touchdown against the Cardinals in a primetime matchup on Sunday Night Football. The 339 passing yards is a career high for a regular season game. Wilson also led the offense in gaining 596 yards, setting a franchise record for most yards gained in a game. The Cardinals had the third best scoring defense heading into Week 16. The Seahawks won 35–6 as they snapped the Cardinals' 7 game home winning streak and regained 1st place in the NFC West as well as the NFC's #1 seed. The Seahawks defeated the Rams 20–6 in Week 17 to clinch the NFC West and the #1 seed for the second consecutive season, securing homefield advantage for the entirety of the NFC playoffs.
Wilson led the Seahawks to a 31–17 home win over the Carolina Panthers in the Divisional round, making the Seahawks the first defending Super Bowl Champion to win a playoff game since the 2005 Patriots. The Seahawks hosted the Green Bay Packers in their second consecutive NFC Championship game. Wilson threw 3 first half interceptions while completing only 2 passes to his own team as the Seahawks fell behind 16–0 at halftime. With the Packers leading 19–7 and 5 minutes remaining in the 4th quarter, Wilson threw his 4th interception. From that point onward, Wilson would lead the Seahawks on an improbable comeback. On the Seahawks' next drive, Wilson ran the ball in for a touchdown to cut the deficit to 19–14. After a successful onside kick recovery, Wilson led the Seahawks down the field, and Lynch ran in to give the Seahawks a 20–19 lead. Wilson completed a 15-yard 2 point conversion pass to Luke Wilson to make it 22–19 Seahawks. The Packers tied it up at the end of regulation and forced overtime. The Seahawks won the coin toss, and the offense took the field. Wilson led the Seahawks on an 80-yard drive that was capped by a 35-yard game winning touchdown pass to Kearse. The Seahawks completed their largest postseason comeback in franchise history as they clinched a Super Bowl berth.
The Seahawks became the first defending champion to return to the Super Bowl since the 2004 Patriots. They faced the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX, where they were defeated by a final score of 28–24. Although the Seahawks led 24–14 heading into the fourth quarter, the Patriots scored two consecutive touchdowns as they took a four-point lead with 2:02 remaining. Wilson led the Seahawks to the Patriots' one-yard line with 25 seconds remaining, but Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler intercepted a pass intended for Ricardo Lockette, sealing the victory for the Patriots.
2015: Breaking franchise records
Wilson against the Baltimore Ravens in 2015
On July 31, 2015, the Seahawks and Wilson agreed to a 4-year, $87.6 million contract extension. In the first 9 games of the season, Wilson threw 10 touchdown passes and 7 interceptions. Over the next 5 games, Wilson threw 19 touchdowns and no interceptions, becoming the only quarterback in NFL history to throw 3+ touchdown passes and no interceptions in 5 consecutive games. After a 2–4 start to the season, Wilson led the Seahawks to win 7 of their next 8 games and clinch a 4th consecutive playoff appearance in their week 15 win over the Cleveland Browns. His strong performance over the second half of the season, even after losing star running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Jimmy Graham, led many analysts to consider Wilson an MVP candidate.
Wilson broke numerous Seahawks single season passing records in 2015, including most passing yards (4,024), most passing touchdowns (34), and highest passer rating (110.1). He became the first Seahawks quarterback to throw for over 4,000 yards in a season, and finished the year with the highest passer rating in the NFL. Wilson's 51.7% deep ball completion percentage was No. 1 among NFL quarterbacks. On December 22, 2015, Wilson was named to his third Pro Bowl. He was ranked 17th on the NFL Top 100 Players of 2016.
The Seahawks traveled to Minnesota to face the Vikings in the NFC Wild Card playoff round. The temperature at kickoff was -6 °F (-25 °F wind chill), making it the third coldest game in NFL history. Wilson struggled in the sub-zero temperatures, throwing for 142 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. The Vikings missed a short field goal in the last minute, allowing the Seahawks to advance to the Divisional playoff round to face the 15–1 Carolina Panthers. Down 31-0 at the half, Wilson helped lead a furious comeback attempt, but the Panthers won 31–24, denying Wilson and the Seahawks their third consecutive in the NFC Championship and a shot at a third consecutive Super Bowl appearance. In that game, Wilson threw for 366 yards, three touchdowns, and two interceptions.
Wilson was drafted first overall by Team Irvin in the 2016 Pro Bowl draft, and in the game threw 8 completions on 12 attempts for 164 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions for a 149.3 rating. He was named the Pro Bowl offensive MVP.
2016: Playing injured
The Seahawks had a solid 2016 season with Wilson at the helm. However, Wilson drew two minor injuries: his ankle during Week 1 against the Miami Dolphins after getting stepped on by defensive lineman Ndamukong Suh, and his left knee against the San Francisco 49ers during Week 3 after a takedown by linebacker Eli Harold. The injuries hampered Wilson's trademark mobility, and many speculated that he would be rested in order to properly recover.
Regardless, Wilson started all 16 games in the season. The team finished 10-5-1 and won the NFC West. Wilson put together a season where he recorded 4,219 passing yards (career-high), 21 passing touchdowns, 259 rushing yards, and one rushing touchdown. The Seahawks made the playoffs, where they defeated the Detroit Lions in the wildcard round. The win gave Russell Wilson his 8th playoff victory, the most for any NFL quarterback in his first five seasons. However, they fell to the eventual NFC champion Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.
First and the only quarterback to throw 4,000+ passing yards in a season (2015)
After graduating from high school, Wilson was selected by the Baltimore Orioles with the fifth pick in the 41st round (1,222nd overall) of the 2007 MLB Draft. The Orioles considered Wilson a talent worthy of the first ten rounds, offered Wilson a $350,000 signing bonus, the third-largest they offered a draftee that year after Matt Wieters ($6 million) and Jake Arrieta ($1.1 million). Wilson instead elected to attend NC State that fall. In a 2008 interview, Wilson said, "I was leaning towards [entering the draft], but a college education is something you'll always have."
In the summer of 2011, Wilson played 61 games with the Asheville Tourists, the Class A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies in the South Atlantic League. He had 3 home runs, 15 RBIs, and a .228 batting average. In January 2012, Wilson informed the Rockies that he would be pursuing a career in the NFL and would not report to spring training for the 2012 season.
In 2014, Wilson became part-owner and endorser of Eat the Ball, a European bread company. In 2015, he began endorsing Luvo, a frozen food company, and Reliant Recovery Water. On February 29, 2016, Wilson launched Good Man Brand, a clothing line which he co-founded. In August 2016, it was announced that Wilson had partnered with Juice Press to open the company's first Seattle franchise.
On November 14, 2016, Wilson announced he had joined Chris Hansen, Wally Walker, and Erik and Pete Nordstrom as partners in the investment group working to bring a new sports arena to Seattle's SoDo neighborhood for potential NBA and NHL teams.
Wilson is an active volunteer in the Seattle community. During the NFL season, Wilson makes weekly visits on his days off to the Seattle Children's Hospital, and has also visited with soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord. In the offseason, Wilson hosts the Russell Wilson Passing Academy, a youth football camp, in several cities. In 2012, proceeds from the camp went to the Charles Ray III Diabetes Association, for which Wilson is the National Ambassador. In 2013 and 2014, Wilson partnered with Russell Investments for its "Invested with Russell" program, which donated $3,000 to Wilson's charitable foundation for every touchdown he scored.