ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — On the morning of March 8, many Denver Broncos players found out the team had acquired quarterback Russell Wilson in a blockbuster trade with the Seattle Seahawks when their phones imploded with a tidal wave of texts, calls and notifications.
They knew Wilson’s resume as a player — a Super Bowl winner and nine-time Pro Bowl selection. But in the weeks and sun-splashed throwing sessions in California that have followed since that franchise-altering deal, many of his Broncos teammates have learned something else about their starting quarterback.
“He’s a big FaceTimer,” Broncos wide receiver Courtland Sutton said with a smile.
Wilson’s drive, his proclaimed “wild obsession” with preparation and his hit-the-ground-throwing approach has already made an imprint on how the Broncos have proceeded through the early portion of their offseason program. But Wilson’s affinity for FaceTime has influenced how he’s reached out to his teammates in the first few weeks since being traded from the team that selected him in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft.
“A few days [after] we found out we were going to have Russ as our quarterback, he shot me over a FaceTime,” Broncos safety Justin Simmons said. “[He] just expressed his excitement … I was like, ‘We’re the ones who are excited.'”
After Peyton Manning signed with the Broncos as a free agent in March 2012, he said “football will come naturally, it’s the thing we all have in common and we’ll get to work on the field,” but emphasized getting to know his teammates and familiarizing himself with the team’s staff would take as much effort and consideration as the on-field work.
He often joked about the number of wrong turns he took on the way to the Broncos’ facility in those first few weeks.
Russell Wilson heaves a dart to a fan in the crowd during his introduction to the Nuggets crowd.
Wilson’s first public appearance as the Broncos’ quarterback came when he visited patients at Children’s Hospital in Denver shortly after the trade. Since then he has made the rounds of Denver’s sports scene, sitting courtside with his wife, Ciara, at a recent Denver Nuggets game and throwing the first pitch at the Colorado Rockies’ season opener, which he attended with his family.
He also held throwing sessions in California with a group of Broncos. And through it all, his teammates have learned to expect a FaceTime ring from Wilson.
Randy Gregory, who signed a five-year, $70 million deal with the Broncos last month, said Wilson was firing off texts to Gregory like deep crossers before Gregory made his decision between signing with the Broncos and re-upping with the Dallas Cowboys. And Wilson greeted Gregory with another FaceTime when Gregory agreed to terms with Denver.
“I don’t know if it was eight times, but he hit me up a lot,” Gregory said after he signed. “The first night I was afraid to answer back, there was a lot of uncertainty with everything going on. I woke up the next morning and the first text I saw was from him again. Then he sent me another one. I said you know what — and mind you, he’s FaceTiming me throughout this whole entire process.
“It’s funny — he was coming from the Children’s Hospital. There’s a certain image he has out in the public. It was funny, I was telling my parents, and I was telling my wife, I was like, ‘He’s literally what he is out in the public.’ He’s coming from a Children’s [Hospital], taking the time to call a guy that he’s trying to bring to the team.”
It’s all part of Wilson’s franchise quarterback equation. And in a locker room that, save kicker Brandon McManus, has no players remaining from the Broncos’ last playoff team — one that won Super Bowl 50 — it’s something they can sense in everything that Wilson does.
“His knowledge of the game is to a different level,” Sutton said. “It comes to him so easy, he wants everyone around him to understand it the way he understands it. … [But] you all can feel it, we all can feel it, the juice is just different. I wasn’t here when Peyton Manning was here, but everyone who was here when Peyton was said the juice is similar. … Everyone understands we have to operate at a different level, a different standard.”