Markus Kuhn didn't know much about American football when he enrolled at N.C. State from his native Germany, but even he knew it was probably not a good idea when the coaches toyed with converting one of his fellow freshmen into a safety.
"He said 'No, I'm a quarterback,'" Kuhn recalled. "Well, I guess he was right."
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Russell Wilson sure was.
This week, that would-be defensive back will be the starting quarterback for the hottest team in football as the Seahawks roll into MetLife Stadium for what might very well be a reconnaissance mission for a return trip in February for Super Bowl XLVIII.
"Russell, from his personality, he was always more like a quiet guy," Kuhn told Newsday. "But he always, always did the right things. Always worked hard. He was always the first guy in the facility, there before the coaches, last guy out. A good guy. He just had his priorities in order right away."
Kuhn and Wilson played together for three years before Wilson graduated and transferred to Wisconsin. Then they trained together for the Combine. Both were selected in the 2012 draft, Wilson in the third round by the Seahawks and Kuhn, a defensive tackle, in the seventh round to the Giants.
Kuhn said he never doubted that Wilson could play quarterback in the NFL, even though his height -- or lack of it at 5-foot-11 -- often has been considered a detriment.
"Sure, you can say if you are an offensive lineman or a defensive lineman or a quarterback it helps to be tall," Kuhn said. "But if you have all the other tangibles, if you're a good player, a hard worker, and you understand football, I don't think it really matters if you are an inch taller or shorter."
Wilson isn't the only former teammate Kuhn is looking forward to seeing. He'll also be going against J.R. Sweezy, one of his best friends in college. Kuhn and Sweezy both played defensive tackle for the Wolfpack and were both drafted in the seventh round. Once in Seattle, though, Sweezy was moved from defense to offense and is now the starting guard for the Seahawks. If Kuhn sees any snaps on defense, there's a good chance he'll be going against Sweezy while trying to get to Wilson.
Who would the N.C. State fans be rooting for in that circumstance?
"It's two against one," Kuhn conceded. "Plus they're American and I'm German, so maybe they're on their side."
The position swap worked out well for Sweezy, just as the stubbornness of Wilson not to move worked for him. But the question remains: Would Wilson have made it in the NFL as a defensive back had he listened to his coaches at N.C. State?
"He wouldn't be a safety in the NFL like he is a quarterback in the NFL," Kuhn said, noting, with acknowledged irony, that he'd be too small.
But then he paused and reconsidered.
"He's a hard worker and he's very dedicated," Kuhn added. "Whatever he puts his mind to he can accomplish."