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Original Issue

The Case for ... Russell Wilson

For the next three weeks, The Case for ... will feature a Sportsman of the Year candidate. Find more nominees at

HERE'S HOW Russell Wilson spent his Sept. 22 bye week: He started a charitable foundation.

For most NFL players bye weeks are for getting reacquainted with family, taking tropical vacations and sleeping in. Only Wilson doesn't rest. He turned his lack of rest into a motto and a line of T-shirts (#notime2sleep).

The charity thing started with Michael Jackson, because everything for Wilson seems to start with Jackson, whose music the Seahawks' quarterback listens to almost nonstop. In late September, Wilson was on a flight to California with "Man in the Mirror" streaming through his headphones. The song got him thinking about domestic violence in the NFL and throughout society, and how the highly publicized cases of players such as the Ravens' Ray Rice, the Panthers' Greg Hardy and the Cardinals' Jonathan Dwyer had put the league in the center of a public firestorm.

So Wilson started the Why Not You Foundation to help raise funds and awareness. He called the organization's first initiative Pass the Peace. He then enlisted various celebrity friends—Derek Jeter, Justin Timberlake, Mark Wahlberg—to donate and encourage others to give to the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

That alone is not why I nominate Wilson for Sportsman of the Year. If the award is designed to showcase the athlete or team that embodies sportsmanship and achievement, Wilson checks off every box. He trounced Peyton Manning and the Broncos to win a Super Bowl last February. Every Tuesday he's in town, he visits sick kids at Seattle Children's Hospital. Reporters who ask to accompany him on those visits are told, No, sorry, it's not a publicity stunt.

Wilson can seem too polished, too perfect, too intent on controlling his own narrative. All the Bible verses he quotes, the clichés and slogans and hashtags—it can all be a little much. Wilson's too-good-to-be-true persona was reportedly one factor in his falling out with Percy Harvin, a conflict that may have contributed to the receiver's trade to the Jets last month. The following week Wilson became the first player in NFL history to pass for more than 300 yards and rush for more than 100 in a game during a 28--26 loss to the Rams. Three victories followed, to bring the Seahawks to 6--3 and right the season. Maybe there's nothing wrong with polished.

After Wilson accounted for three touchdowns and rushed for 122 yards—the most by any quarterback on Monday Night Football—in Seattle's 27--17 victory over Washington in Week 5, safety Ryan Clark said, "We got beat by, as far as I'm concerned this weekend, the best player in the NFL." He later backtracked slightly on Twitter. He didn't need to.

The question is no longer whether Wilson is an elite quarterback. He answered that in the Super Bowl, and again throughout the first half of this season. The question is whether he will one day become the face not only of a team but also of the league. Peyton Manning is 38, Tom Brady 37. Wilson turns 26 this month. He's the odds-on favorite to become the next Brady or Manning.

Wilson writes columns in his spare time (for SI's and for Derek Jeter's new website). He listens to Rosetta Stone as he drives around Seattle, learning not one new language but three. He has a cameo in the upcoming Entourage movie. He participated in spring training with the Rangers, and he's even featured in the video game Temple Run 2, outrunning demon monkeys through the jungle. He's talented and compassionate and marketable, the best qualities of any Sportsman. He'll be a candidate for years to come.

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