When Russell Wilson walked off the field as a Super Bowl champion quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night, it led one Orioles scout to recall the 2007 baseball season.
That was the year the Orioles drafted Wilson in the 41st round out of the Collegiate School in Richmond, Va. He was an excellent high school baseball player with potentially top 10 round talent. The only reason he was drafted so low was because he had a pretty firm commitment to go to North Carolina State to play football and baseball.
Wilson did eventually play in the minor leagues after the Colorado Rockies drafted him in the fourth round in 2010. But even though he heard often he was not tall enough to be an NFL quarterback, it has worked out pretty well for him in that sport.
Longtime Orioles scout Dean Albany was the area scout back in 2007 who saw Wilson play on the high school fields of Richmond.
“I liked him a lot,” Albany said. “He had a chance to be a second baseman. I saw him play football a couple of games, too, in high school and he was amazing.
“As a baseball player, he was an athletic kid. He had a fast bat and could play the middle of the field. He ran well with good agility. He had good pitch recognition for a high school hitter. Had some power. Just a good player.
“I love taking multi-sport players in the draft. I got to watch LJ Hoes play basketball and Gavin Floyd play basketball. Guys that can play well in more than one sport have something to bring to the table and Russell was exceptional at both sports.”
As much as Wilson impressed Albany on the field, he also impressed him big-time off the field.
“He is just an exceptional, exceptional human being,” Albany said. “I’ve met a lot of kids in my life and I don’t know I’ve ever met anyone more impressive, as far as how humble he was and how he treated his teammates. Although he was always the best athlete on the field, he treated everyone equal. He was the first guy to rake the field every day and the last guy carrying the equipment in after the game.
“I knew Russell Wilson was going to do great things. I just didn’t know if it would be football, baseball or something else in life. He’s really smart, too.”
The Orioles reportedly made Wilson a $350,000 offer to try and buy him out of that college commitment. It was the third-highest offer the O’s made that year after Matt Wieters got $6 million and Jake Arrieta $1.1 million.
“We made a lucrative offer to sign him,” Albany remembered. “He called and said, ‘Mr. Albany, I am going to go to N.C. State and play football.’ After we drafted him, we called and let him know we were not treating him like a 41st-round pick, but a top 10 pick and we did.”
By the way, here is what Baseball America wrote about Wilson before the 2007 draft:
“A talented athlete who has accepted a scholarship offer to play football at North Carolina State, Wilson had a strong season, tightening his swing and showing plus bat speed and enough pop to project to hit for average power. He’s still learning the game and he doesn’t repeat his swing, but has good aptitude and work ethic. Although Wilson was an option quarterback in high school, he’s just a fringe-average runner, and while he has played in the middle infield in the past, he profiles better at third base or a corner outfield position. He has average arm strength. All his tools play up because of the ease with which the game seems to come to him.”
Albany said Wilson did not have a representative and he talked contract only with the player and his family. The Orioles had Wilson rated as a top 10 talent.
“I had him six to 10,” Albany said. “His makeup meant a lot and he was athletic. You know, a 5-foot-11 quarterback is few and far between, so we thought we had a chance. I still believe if he would have concentrated on baseball he may have one day played in the big leagues.”
Wilson left N.C. State and transferred to Wisconsin for the fall of 2011. He threw for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns, leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl, and Seattle drafted him in the third round.
Wilson did play in the minors for the Rockies, batting .229 in 93 games during the 2010-11 seasons in short-season and low Single-A ball. The Texas Rangers drafted Wilson in the minor league phase of the Rule 5 draft last December. But they know he remains committed to football.
“The profession he picked is working out pretty well,” Albany added. “You know what? I’m real happy for him because he is a great, great guy. We said it then. Joe Jordan (then O’s scouting director) and I, when we walked off the field after talking to Russell, it was like, ‘Wow.’ He was so impressive.”
Handy information: With spring training almost here, it is always interesting to find out which players are out of options. Here is the list of players out of options on the Orioles’ 40-man roster:
* Zach Britton, Chris Davis, Kelvin De La Cruz, Edgmer Escalona, Tommy Hunter, David Lough, Brian Matusz, Steve Pearce, Francisco Peguero, Nolan Reimold, Chris Tillman
Troy Patton is out of options, but is currently on the restricted list due to his suspension.
* Here is a list of players that signed minor league contracts that are out of options: Alfredo Aceves, Julio Borbon, Alexi Casilla, Ivan DeJesus, Chris Marrero, Cord Phelps, Xavier Paul, Delmon Young
A list of some players that have one option remaining: Brad Brach, Liam Hendriks, Steve Johnson, Darren O’Day, Ryan Webb, Jemile Weeks, Dylan Bundy