Russell Wilson is Seahawks' clear leader

RENTON, Wash. -- In Russ We Trust.

That’s the mantra for 2013. The Russell Wilson who started at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks season opener one year ago is not the Russell Wilson who will start the season opener Sunday.

The 2012 Wilson was a talented, but green, rookie just hoping to find his way on a team that had no idea how good it could be.

The 2013 Wilson is a celebrated team leader, brimming with confidence after helping the Seahawks to the playoffs. Wilson is the clear star on a team with Super Bowl aspirations entering the opener in Charlotte against the Carolina Panthers

“We’ve done a lot of good things,” Wilson said. “But we haven’t done anything great yet.”

Many people believe great things are ahead for the Seahawks and Wilson. He went from an unsure rookie to a man who had the highest quarterback rating in the NFL over the second half of the season, earning a spot in the Pro Bowl.

Wilson talked about his maturation and how things have changed in the past year.

"It’s just my understanding and my patience,” Wilson said. “It’s being so clear-minded and having command of the offense. We have great communication. I think that’s the area where we’ve really grown the most. We’re making adjustments when we need to.”

Wilson was one of the biggest surprises of the 2012 season, a third-round draft pick who some saw as too short (5-foot-10 1/2 ) to be successful in this era of big NFL quarterbacks. But Wilson proved doubters wrong by leading Seattle to an 11-5 season and a playoff win at Washington before a heartbreaking last-minute loss at Atlanta.

The national media can’t get enough of him now. He was a cover boy last month for ESPN The Magazine and Sports Illustrated. He also was featured in GQ magazine.

“I don’t read any articles,” Wilson said. “Sorry, but I don’t read what you guys write. I just stay away from it. The magazine stuff, I don’t even look at it.

“It’s an honor to be in all that stuff and it’s great for the Seahawks to have that exposure. I enjoy it, but I have to keep my focus. My No. 1 focus is my faith, and then to play the game of football. Just stay in the moment.”

Seahawks wide receiver Golden Tate was asked how Wilson had changed from a year ago.

"I’d say person-wise, he has been the same person from the moment that he walked in the door,” Tate said. “He’s a hard worker, very passionate about football, wants to do well, wants to see all of us to do well. But now, he just knows more. He understands the offense more. He understands NFL football more. He knows what it takes to win. I’m excited for him and us. We are way more advanced than we were last year.”

Now Wilson is one of the team’s three captains, along with veteran defensive linemen Red Bryant and special teams standout Heath Farwell.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” Wilson said. “But we have so many leaders on this football team.”

Wilson stepped up as a leader in a 16-12 victory over Carolina in the fifth game of last season, the first road victory for the young quarterback.

“To be able to win that game in a very tough environment was good for us,” he said. “We made a couple of mistakes in the second half, but we overcame it. That’s the biggest thing. Can you overcome situations, especially on the road?”

It is a lesson Wilson thinks all quarterbacks have to learn.

“The biggest thing a quarterback has to do is weather the storms,” he said. “When things aren’t going so well during a game, can he bring the guys back together? It’s about doing the right thing at the right time.”

Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has seen a dramatic change in how Wilson reacts to situations during a game.

“There’s a lot he has improved on,” Bevell said. “I think the biggest thing is his overall understanding of the offense. Just knowing the ins and outs of it. He knows exactly what to do with the ball, when to let it go. He recognizes the problems that the defense can present, and he’s learning his personnel in terms of what types of things he can do on each play, knowing what a good throw is for every guy. There’s just a lot of little things that you learn between those first two years.”

The Seahawks coaches trust Wilson to do more things right. They kept it simple for Wilson a year ago, but Wilson has no limitations in the playbook now.

"It’s a little more complicated,” he said. “It’s not crazy different. I’ve been a smart kid for a long time. It wasn’t like something I couldn’t figure out. But we’ve definitely installed more and expanded things in terms of the passing game. I think that’s a good thing. We have to keep growing. There are so many areas where we still can get better.”

Wilson probably has just scratched the surface on how good he can be. And the better he gets, the better the chances the Seahawks reach the expectations fans have for them this season.

“The biggest thing for me is I’m not going to shy away from any challenge,” Wilson said. “To be a solid quarterback you have to be great on third down and you have to be great in the red zone.

“That’s something we pride ourselves in. We talk about it every day. The biggest thing is always remaining positive, believing in myself and my teammates and trusting the preparation.”

Trust is the key word for the Seahawks.

In Russ We Trust.