The Colorado Rockies saw something special in Russell Wilson, even if the Denver Broncos didn’t. A two-sport athlete at North Carolina State, Wilson looked impressive enough through three seasons with the Wolfpack baseball team that the Rockies selected him with the 140th pick in the 2010 draft.
Two years later, having given up his baseball career for a final year of college football eligibility, Wilson set a variety of school records in his lone season as the quarterback of the Wisconsin Badgers. In the 2012 NFL draft, the Denver Broncos had a chance to draft Wilson as a successor to the newly signed Peyton Manning, but instead chose Arizona State QB Brock Osweiler in the second round. Wilson fell to the Seattle Seahawks, who selected him in the third round with the 75th overall pick.
Now that the dust has settled, we can see the big picture; the Colorado Rockies are a mess, Brock Osweiler has played just a few quarters in garbage time, and Peyton Manning is facing Russell Wilson in the Super Bowl.
Funny how things work out, especially when reading two-year-old quotes from Rockies executives speaking to the AP after Wilson informed them he would be entering the NFL Draft.
"We thought his future would be better in baseball, if he chose to pursue it," Bill Schmidt, the Rockies vice president of scouting, said in a Jan. 2012 story. "But we always knew that football was there. We would've liked to have seen him stick with it a little longer and seen where it would've taken him. But I fully understand where he's coming from with football."
"If football doesn't work out and he calls us, he can come back and play baseball," Schmidt added.
Not anymore, at least not for the Rockies. Should Wilson go Deion Sanders on us and recommit to a career in baseball, he’ll be playing for the Texas Rangers, who acquired Wilson’s rights as a baseball player in December’s Rule 5 draft. Although the Rangers have admitted that the move was more of a PR stunt than anything else, Topps announced yesterday that Wilson will be on a baseball card in their Bowman series, which is centered on prospects. Fittingly, given his role in the organization moving forward, it will be a “limited edition.”
Meanwhile, woebegone fans of the Rockies can’t help but wonder what their team would have been like if Wilson hadn’t made the fateful choice to return to football after a two-year stint in the minor leagues, where he hit .228 in his final season with the Asheville Tourists. Although Denver Post MLB writer Troy Renck speculated that “It’s doubtful Wilson would have reached the big leagues by now,” his former teammates told Renck that his incredible work ethic might have eventually paid off on the baseball diamond.
“I think he would have made the right adjustments and become successful in baseball," Corey Dickerson, a Rockies outfielder who played with Wilson in Asheville, told the Post. "He tries so hard to get better every day. It was noticeable, and it's evident with everything that he's done in his two years in Seattle."
Indeed it is. In leading a young team that’s one win away from earning Seattle’s first Super Bowl title, Wilson clearly made the right choice when it came to professional sports. But like all the quarterback-needy teams who passed him over in the NFL draft, Rockies fans are also left wondering: “What if…?”