Bob Glauber has been Newsday's national football columnist since 1992. He was Newsday's football writer covering the Jets
NEWARK - OK, about that haircut, Russell Wilson. What's the deal? Fashion statement with those flowing curls? Good luck charm? Some other hidden meaning?
Actually, there really is something to the Seahawks quarterback's new look, which he says looks like the "Michael Jackson/Bruno Mars S-curl right now.''
It goes back to a picture Wilson recently saw of himself and his father, Harrison Benjamin Wilson III, a Richmond, Va.- based attorney who died in 2010. The photo was from Wilson's junior year at Collegiate School in Richmond.
"Normally, I keep my hair pretty low,'' Wilson said Tuesday at Super Bowl Media Day. "When I was in 11th grade, we won the state championship. I had my hair grown out. I didn't cut my hair the whole season, and my dad didn't, either. So it kind of inspired me for this year.''
A win Sunday in Super Bowl XLVIII against the Broncos and Wilson will have another championship, a far more monumental one. Wilson, who relies far more on athleticism and guile than superstition, can earn a ring in only his second season if he can beat future Hall of Famer Peyton Manning.
Wilson, a third-round pick who beat out high-priced free agent Matt Flynn, led the Seahawks to the second round of the playoffs as a rookie. This time, he has taken them to the brink of a title after answering any lingering doubts about whether he could make it in the NFL despite his stature.
Height is just a number. Listed at 5-11, which is probably generous, Wilson blends drop-back ability with an uncanny knack for scrambling out of danger.
At 25 he's 12 years younger than his exalted counterpart. He actually trained as a kid at Manning's passing academy in Louisiana, where he saw Peyton's dedication to perfection firsthand. That's also Wilson's greatest asset as he quickly masters the finer points of an NFL game that takes most quarterbacks far longer to grasp.
"It'll be great to go against Peyton Manning,'' Wilson said. "Obviously, it's not me versus him, but he's a guy that I have so much respect for. All of the amazing things he's done over his career, he's built this unbelievable legacy, and he's one of the best -- if not the best -- quarterbacks to ever play the game.
"One day I want to be like him in terms of the way he thinks. He's just a master of the game. I'm working to get there; I'm on a constant quest for knowledge. I have memories of being in 10th grade and going to his passing academy and learning from him. That was one of the better experiences of my life.''
Except for a few average games last month, Wilson has been mostly terrific in two seasons -- 63.6 completion percentage, 52 touchdowns and only 19 interceptions.
"He's able to find passing lanes naturally,'' Seattle general manager John Schneider said. "He moves a lot. He's very similar to Drew Brees in the pocket. He's very smart with the ball.
"You saw his numbers come down a little bit toward the end of the season, but we played a lot of very good defenses. That was a little bit more of a result of him really protecting the ball, a lot of throwaways. He doesn't care about his passer rating. If he makes a mistake, he can put it out of his mind right away and move on to the next play.''
There haven't been many mistakes. And if Wilson needs to let his hair down -- literally -- along the way, who can hold it against him? He is an immensely talented young player with a work ethic that leaves plenty of room to grow in the years ahead.