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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Oct. 24, 2014

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In Sports Commentary

Russell Wilson now plays for the Seattle Seahawks. Does his one year in Madison really make him "ours"? (PHOTO: Larry Maurer / WikiCommons)

Is Russell Wilson really "ours?"


Russell Wilson will take snaps next Sunday evening in Super Bowl XLVIII for the Seattle Seahawks, and no doubt many in Wisconsin will be rooting for the second-year quarterback to best Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos.

After all, Wilson led the University of Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl in 2011. He's a Badger. He's ours.

Or is he?

Wilson was born in Ohio before moving to Virginia, where he went to high school. He then went to North Carolina to play football at North Carolina State University. He redshirted his freshman year, and then played three full seasons for the Wolfpack. He spent four years on that campus in Raleigh.

When he wasn't invited to the NFL Combine following his 2010 season, and his coaches at N.C. State weren't thrilled with his dalliances with Major League Baseball, he was released from his scholarship.

This is where Wisconsin comes in. On June 27, 2011 he committed to the Badgers. He quarterbacked Bucky in the Rose Bowl less than seven months later on Jan. 2, 2012. Two weeks after that game, he was down in Florida training for the combine.

Then, he was drafted into the NFL.

So … how does this make Wilson "ours?"

Adopting a player is what sports are all about. Few major college athletes are from the cities or states where they play. Even fewer pro athletes ever are.

What's interesting is that where you're from matters far less than the uniform you wear.

I was first introduced to this phenomenon in my youth growing up in Chicago, where Chi-town born and bred Isiah Thomas became a pariah, a man literally hated by the town he was raised in, because he dared to beat up Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls.

Jordan, who was born in Brooklyn mind you, was raised in North Carolina and attended college in North Carolina. He now owns a pro basketball team in that state. Needless to say, Jordan is North Carolina's favorite son. But, Chicago definitely calls him its own.

As I got older, I saw the same thing happen with Donovan McNabb, born and raised on the South Side but vilified as he quarterbacked the Philadelphia Eagles to wins over the beloved Chicago Bears.

I see it now with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick. All that state pride and fist-pumping at his love of the Brewers and Bucks went out the window as soon as he started beating down the Green Bay Packers.

I get that, to an extent. You want your team to win. But how do you come to loathe an athlete whose family and friends likely still live in that city, and they probably come home more often than any of your adopted heroes?

It's a weird thing, this "ownership" of our athletes.

Wilson spent just a fraction of his 25 years on this earth in Wisconsin, and he was only there – really – to play football and raise his draft stock. Once that was accomplished, he was gone.

Now, he is an alumnus. He was part of a really good Badgers team. He's a smart dude, too. He'll always represent the school and the state. After all – one of his corporate sponsors, American Family Insurance – is based in Madison.

But he's also a N.C. State alumnus, and that university actually has far more claim to him than Wisconsin.

I'm not saying you can't root for Wilson, or shouldn't. He's a Badger. So is his teammate, Seahawks linebacker O'Brien Schofield. Schofield, an Illinois native, spent 2005-09 in Madison.

Do we love Wilson more than another Seahawks teammate, Chris Maragos, a Racine native and another Badgers player? Maragos started his college career at Western Michigan (2005-06) before transferring back home (2007-09).

Or, what about Denver Broncos running back Montee Ball?

Ball is a Kansas native and went to high school in Missouri, and is one of the best running backs to ever come through Madison, which is no small feat.

If anything, fans across this state should rally around him more so than Wilson. Shouldn't they?

Or is it because Wilson is a quarterback, and the additional adoration just comes with it?

Maybe that's it. Maybe that's why I see more Wilson Seahawks jerseys than Schofield, Maragos or Ball when I'm out in about in Milwaukee, Southeastern Wisconsin or around Green Bay.

But of the four, the state has less invested in Wilson, less of a connection. But yet, so many say that he's "ours." He doesn't feel like it, though.

Talkbacks

High_Life_Man | Jan. 29, 2014 at 5:29 p.m. (report)

Watch the Super Bowl video on this page. Wilson is proud to be a Badger. https://www.facebook.com/wisconsinbadgers

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gpack86 | Jan. 29, 2014 at 12:40 p.m. (report)

As many Badger fans recall, NCSU fans adopted Wisconsin as their second team to cheer on. Wilson is revered by NCSU fans and he has earned the right to be labeled both a Badger as well as a Wolfpack alumni. Although I am a Panthers fan, I will be cheering for Wilson, Sweezey, Hauschka and Nate Irving because they all are Wolfpack family.

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buck | Jan. 24, 2014 at 5:52 p.m. (report)

If you're a Badger football fan, you're going to feel a connection with Wilson, regardless of how long he was here. If you're not, then you won't. As for Kaepernick, he was born here but moved away before he played at any level. So not too much of a chance for anyone to form a connection. Pretty simple stuff to figure out.

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TosaJim | Jan. 24, 2014 at 1:36 p.m. (report)

Unless you were born or raised most of your life in Wisconsin...you are not "ours"...we are only borrowing you. :)

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