EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Russell Wilson went to last season's Super Bowl to do research. So confident was the Seattle Seahawks' rookie quarterback in his and his team's ability to reach the NFL's championship game -- and reach it soon -- that he wanted to know everything he could about what it felt like to be there.
"I wanted to get a sense of how it was going to be," Wilson recalled Sunday night. "I wanted to know how the pregame was going to go, halftime, all of it, the whole experience, so I could be as prepared as possible."
This is why what happened Sunday night, with Wilson and the Seahawks trouncing Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos 43-8 in one of the most one-sided Super Bowls, is so scary. Wilson doesn't just ponder his future, he works to grab as much control of it as he possibly can. At 25 years old, he is already a Super Bowl champion quarterback. And while nothing for him or anyone is guaranteed, the possibilities for Wilson at this moment in time are dizzying.
He has the keys to the hottest car in the league and seems uniquely equipped to drive it. The Seahawks are the second-youngest team in the NFL and the second youngest ever to compete in a Super Bowl. The only younger roster in Super Bowl history was the 1971 Miami Dolphins, who lost Super Bowl VI to the Dallas Cowboys and then went undefeated the following season. These Seahawks have already done that group one better, and they did it with the defense leading the way. As Wilson improves with the wealth of young talent around him, only better things await.
"He just wants to be great so much," Seahawks wide receiver Percy Harvin said. "I haven't seen anybody prepare like him."
Here's what's special about Wilson's opportunity. He is set up, yes, with a dominant defense, power running game and a player -- Harvin -- that Wilson didn't even get to use this season waiting to do big things with him in 2014 and beyond. Having lasted until the third round of the 2013 draft, Wilson carries a mere $817,302 salary-cap hit for 2014, obviously less than he's worth. For now, he allows Seattle to continue to put great pieces around him. When you're still a couple of years from having to really pay your franchise quarterback, you can trade a first-round pick for Harvin. Your GM's offseason priority list becomes a lot more fun.
"Obviously, we feel like we have a really strong foundation," Seattle GM John Schneider said. "Every team's looking for a great pass rush, a great quarterback and a strong runner like Marshawn [Lynch]."
The Seahawks have all of that, and, unlike a lot of Super Bowl champions, it appears they will get to keep all of it for a while and build on it. As they do, they take great comfort in the knowledge that their 25-year-old quarterback won't let them get complacent.
"He refuses to fail. He refuses to let himself fail. And he's going to refuse to let anyone else around him allow that to happen," Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said. "So he's always going to be grabbing guys and making them watch a little more film, make them work a little bit more on this play or that play. A lot of the things that you would say about Peyton Manning, he has a lot of those qualities."
Ah, yes, Manning: the established superstar vanquished by Wilson's Seahawks in Super Bowl XLVIII. This game had a chance to be Manning's coronation -- a victory that could have erased so many of the things his critics hold against him and anointed him the undisputed best of all time. That must wait now, and, at 37, Manning has to know he's running out of chances. Wilson inhabits the other end of the spectrum and can legitimately dream about winning countless more.
"We've already said it," Seattle wide receiver Doug Baldwin said. "We're going to win this one, and then what's next is we're going to win it again."
Seattle has a team-wide swagger befitting its youth, but Wilson has a leader's mien, and a leader's responsibility to be more circumspect.
"The goal was to win the first one," Wilson said. "We've got a great group of guys, and I believe we can do it again, but it's not easy. So you can think about the future and how many great players we have and one of the youngest teams in the league, but we just wanted to win this one. To think about the future, that wouldn't be us."
I thank Wilson for his permission, and here goes: There's no one in the NFL you'd rather be right now than Russell Wilson. He knows for a fact he can win the Super Bowl and has a team around him that's deep and solid enough to be a clear-cut Super Bowl favorite going into 2014. But what should frighten the rest of the teams in the NFL is Wilson knows the breadth of his opportunity and feels a responsibility to work hard enough to cash it in. Sunday was the night of Wilson's life so far, but there's ample reason to believe there are more nights like this to come.