Russell Wilson benefits from working with a mental conditioning coach

Russell Wilson has turned the lowest moment of his career into a point of inspiration thanks to mental training. AP Photo/David Goldman

Two weeks after Russell Wilson threw the most devastating interception in Super Bowl history, he and his personal team of trusted advisers came up with a plan for how to best move forward.

They settled on San Diego as his offseason home that year. They interviewed perspective trainers who could help him work on his lower body strength and speed. Then they discussed what he needed to do to take the next step in his career.

One of the people by Wilson's side was his mental conditioning coach, Trevor Moawad. According to Moawad, there was no lengthy discussion of why the Seattle Seahawks' season ended the way it did. Instead, Moawad decided to show Wilson clips of all of his successful fourth-quarter comebacks over the years.

"It’s his ability to see that as part of his DNA going back to high school, he’s a finisher," Moawad said. "He’s always finished. He’s a world-class finisher. It’s who he is. It’s how he’s been able to do what he does.

"He knows that that’s what he’s about. It was never really anything that needed to be re-framed. It was an isolated play, and you’re gonna have isolated great plays and isolated bad plays. You’re ultimately gonna be measured by what you do next. I think that the discipline based on the offseason that he had last year gave him a great opportunity to make his next moment great."

What was Wilson's reaction to the video session?

"It gives you the chills," he said. "You think about all the wins and all the things that have been able to be accomplished, it’s a lot of hard work. It’s not just me. It’s everybody else around you as well. You trust and believe in the rest of the guys around you, but it also gives you that self-confidence that you can do it over and over again if you just keep preparing."

Moawad and Wilson first connected during the pre-draft process in 2012 and have had a relationship ever since.

Wilson said recently that he wants to play 15 more seasons in the NFL, and he relies on trainers Ryan Flaherty and Gunnar Peterson to get him ready physically. But he's invested in other resources as well and believes strongly in mental conditioning.

"He’s been huge," Wilson said of Moawad. "He sends me highlights every week. But more importantly, Trevor really challenges me mentally, gives me visions of where I want to go and who I want to be and how I want to do it. I think that’s what makes Trevor so great."

Moawad has his own consulting group and has worked closely with the Alabama and Florida State football programs.

"We spend time where I’ll show him different specials, different behind-the-scenes looks at some of the best athletes and best competitors," Moawad said. "And we’ll look at some of the best moments in his career where he’s been able to perform at his highest levels and then just really try to understand specifically what he was doing at that time so he can continue to replicate those types of performances."

Asked to compare Wilson and Nick Saban, Moawad added, "In my nine years with Alabama football and being a part of that program and getting a chance to watch Coach Saban and to see him lead and to see the impact he has on the program, I think Russell’s desire and drive to improve and to get better, and when he has success to understand why he has success and look to replicate that -- that inability to accept the status quo and to continually apply pressure on himself to get better, I think that’s a characteristic of both of them."

Derek Jeter is Wilson's all-time favorite athlete and a guy he has tried to model himself after. Moawad and Wilson have studied Jeter together to try to learn about what made him so great.

"Just his leadership, his poise, his professionalism," Wilson said. "Also his clutchness and his consistency."

Wilson has shown an impressive ability to consistently focus on what's next. After the Super Bowl loss to the New England Patriots, he bounced back and led the NFL in passer rating in 2015.

After the Seahawks fell behind 31-0 to the Carolina Panthers in the divisional round last season, they fought back and made it a one-score game late in the fourth. Cameras caught Wilson on the sideline in the second half telling teammates they were about to complete one of the greatest comebacks in NFL history.

Pete Carroll often mentions Wilson's knack for being able to implement fixes quickly and effectively. During the bye week last season, the coaches decided they wanted to lean more on a quick passing game to help make up for offensive-line deficiencies, specifically against the blitz and on third down. Wilson took the coaching and went on a 24-touchdown/one-interception tear in the final seven games.

One of the techniques he has implemented is visualization. Whether it's during walkthroughs or while watching film, Wilson believes strongly that the mental reps lead to positive results on gamedays.

"Essentially, visualization is the ability to in a first-person, present-tense way, see yourself executing a given task," Moawad explained. "It’s not like watching yourself in a movie. It’s more psychologically experiencing it. Some will call it psycho-cybernetics. Your body can’t distinguish between a real or an imagined experience. You actually get reps when you visualize and see yourself stepping in, how you’re moving, how you’re eluding the rush, how you’re completing [passes], doing all those different types of things. So you’re essentially getting additional reps."

During press conferences, Wilson rarely goes more than a couple minutes without mentioning one of his favorite phrases: The separation is in the preparation. It seems to be his response to just about any challenge, and Moawad has played a critical role in developing Wilson's mental preparation over the years.

"Trevor always says, ‘It comes by no surprise,’ " Wilson said. "That’s what he always tells me. So I think it’s true. It comes by no surprise. And this is anything in life, when you put the work in, you get out what you put in. That’s a really, really crucial thing, and I really believe that."