Archive | February, 2014

The Pride of Puerto Rico: Garcia Looks Forward to Triumphant Homecoming

28 Feb

 

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

World Super Lightweight Champion Danny Garcia takes for a few questions from the media shortly before beginning his work out for his upcoming fight against rising contender Mauricio Herrera on March 15 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.

World Super Lightweight Champion Danny Garcia takes for a few questions from the media shortly before beginning his work out for his upcoming fight against rising contender Mauricio Herrera on March 15 in Bayamon, Puerto Rico.  Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—There is no doubt that world super lightweight champion Danny “Swift” Garcia is a beloved figure in North Philadelphia and is proud of his hometown.

But Garcia is also intensely proud of his Puerto Rican heritage and the island that is connected to it.

“I’m Puerto Rican, I was raised in Philadelphia and so I got the best of both worlds,” said Garcia, who is 27-0 with 16 knockouts. “I got the Puerto Rican power and then I got the Philadelphia toughness and the Philly skills so it comes a long way.”

Because of this, Garcia’s next fight will be a sort of homecoming. Garcia, who holds both the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association titles, will be his titles up against against veteran contender Mauricio Herrera (20-3, seven knockouts)  in Bayamon, Puerto Rico on March 15 at the Coliseo Ruben Rodriguez.

“I think it means a lot to me just to reach out to my fans in Puerto Rico,” Garcia said. “They don’t have a champion right now, so I’m going to go out there and win this fight March 15 to solidify being a Puerto Rican champion.”

For  Garcia’s father and manager, the irrepressible Angel Garcia, having his son fight in Puerto Rico is a personal source of pride for him, especially considering some of the all-time great Puerto Rican champions like Alfredo Escalera, Wilfred Benitez and Wilfredo Gomez.

“I want Danny to give back to his culture. I’m 100 percent Puerto Rican, my wife is 100 percent Puerto Rican. To me, it’s an honor for him to fight in Puerto Rico,” Angel Garcia said.

“A lot of great champions come from Bayamon and March 15 there’s going to be another great champion fighting in Bayamon and it’s going to be Danny Garcia. …He’s still going to be the undefeated champion of the world.”

Garcia was at his gym in Northeast Philadelphia Wednesday going through the rigors of his workout in preparation for his fight against the 33-year-old Herrera, whose biggest win was in 2011 when he won a 12-round unanimous decision over World Boxing Organization champion Ruslan Provodnikov.

To say that 2013 was a very good year for Garcia would be an understatement. After a win over former world champion Zab Judah, he won a tough, hard-fought unanimous decision over Argentine knockout artist Lucas Matthysse.

The Matthysse fight was one that no one expected Garcia to win. After battling through an early barrage from Matthysse, Garcia assumed command of the fight from the middle to late rounds. In the 11th round, Garcia put Matthysse on the canvas with a knockdown to ensure that he got the win by decision.

Garcia has appreciated the whirlwind 2013 created for him.

“It’s been a good learning experience for me and a good journey,” Garcia said.

His father, Angel, sees a fighter whose peaking at just the right time.

“He’s gotten an older, not old as an old man, but as a young man,” Angel Garcia said. “He learns from every fight. A man learns until he dies. He’s better right now. He punches harder now than before.”

Coming into the Herrera fight, Garcia is in the unusual position of being the favorite in the minds of some boxing experts.

To him, that means nothing.

“The day I stop taking it seriously is the day I stop boxing,” Garcia said. “Anytime you step in the ring the other person is trying to hurt you, so I would never put myself in a position where I’m going into the ring and I’m not ready. I take no one lightly.”

It was widely speculated in boxing circles that world welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is scheduled to Marcos Maidana in May, would be a big-time opponent for Garcia.

But as much as Danny and Angel Garcia would like to prepare for a match with a legendary champion like Mayweather, they’re exercising patience.

Danny Garcia knows that it’s only a matter of time.

“At the end of the day, I’m building my own legacy and if the Mayweather fight comes, it comes. I’ll fight anybody. That’s why I signed up to be a boxer is to fight the best,” he said. “As far as me worrying about (Mayweather) and chasing that fight, that’s not me. I’ve never called nobody out. I stay in my own lane. I work hard. Whoever they put in front of me, that’s who gets beat up that day.”

Game Plan Foundation Helps former NFL’ers Get Much Needed Help

20 Feb

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles.  In retirement,  Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

As a player, Leonard Marshall led the New York Giants to Super Bowl titles. In retirement, Marshall is helping his retired brethren to enjoy life after football. Photo submitted by Angela Crockett Enterprises, Inc.

During his playing days with the New York Giants, New York Jets and Washington Redskins, Leonard Marshall was one of the NFL’s best defensive lineman with a career that included a pair of Super Bowl rings and 83 sacks.

But when he hung up his jersey after 11 years in the game in 1994, Marshall began to notice that all was not well with some of his fellow ex-NFL players. Some were dealing with malingering pain from old injuries that led to addiction to painkillers. Others didn’t have jobs with the health insurance needed to help with their problems. Still others were dealing with serious short-term memory loss.

“Some of the players were divorced and didn’t have the education or skills to earn money,” Marshall said. “They found themselves in a situation where they couldn’t figure out ‘What’s my next step?”

As he talked with more players, this pattern of injury, addiction and memory loss became clearer, Marshall said.

But it was the  tragic death by suicide of former Philadelphia Eagles safety Andre Waters in 2006 that made Marshall take action. He and Waters had faced off more than once when he played with both the Giants and the Redskins, so the news hit close to home.

“That situation was terrible. That’s what grabbed my attention,” Marshall said. “It was a wake-up call.”

It was then that Marshall decided that it might be time for him to help his fellow retired brethren of the gridiron put together a Game Plan.

In 2008, Marshall formed the Game Plan Foundation to help former NFL’ers connect with the treatment they need. So far, the organization has raised $50,000 and has established partnerships with the medical facilities such as the Laser Spine Institute in Tampa, Fla., and Clifton, N.J.-based P.A.S.T (Pain Alternatives, Solutions Treatment), a medical group that treats former athletes.

Those  facilities provide former players without health insurance or savings the care they need for the physical and mental ailments brought on by the game free of charge.

“About 60 or 70 percent of former players aren’t employed and don’t have the skill set or the ability to function in a job or have a partner that has a job with health benefits,” Marshall said. “I want them to have options for their healthcare.”

The most prevalent ailment among retired players is the issue of chronic traumatic encephalopathy—or CTE. CTE is a degenerative brain condition caused by an abnormal build up of the protein tau, which strangles the brain cells in the areas that control memory, emotions and other functions. CTE, which doctors say is the result of head trauma, has been linked to dementia and depression.

CTE, which was first discovered by forensic pathologist Dr. Bennett Omalu when he did an autopsy of Pittsburgh Steelers Hall-of-Fame center Mike Webster. The suicides of San Diego Chargers linebacker Junior Seau and former Chicago Bears defensive back Dave Duerson, have been connected to CTE.

Marshall was diagnosed, along with former Dallas Cowboys Hall-of-Fame running back Tony Dorsett and offensive lineman Joe DeLamielleure, with CTE last November after having a test done at UCLA.

This makes the struggle to help the NFL’s retirees  a personal one for Marshall.

“I deal with the signs associated with CTE every day,” Marshall said. “I would get in the car, knew where I was going before I left and then forget where I was going or why I was going and then go back home.”

Marshall said he copes with it by taking supplements, exercise and getting additional therapy with controlling his behavior from P.A.S.T., some of which involve him going through therapy that involves getting oxygen to his brain.

“I have to deal with making good decisions, but I’m still talking and writing. Trying to make things work for Leonard,” he said. “It’s a challenge.”

The reality of CTE is also a concern to current NFL players as well. San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis said players are worried about the blows to the head that aren’t diagnosed as concussions.

“You have guys that are worried about the helmets they’re wearing or they’re thinking of the players who are suffering from brain injuries now,” Davis said. “It’s getting better, but guys are still worried about it.  …The thing I think about is do we get concussions even though we don’t have symptoms? How will that affect our health? We’re playing this contact sport and we’re getting concussions, but we’re not having the symptoms.”

Unlike now, where players that get their “bells rung” have to go through a concussion protocol before even thinking of returning to the field, head injuries were the last thing on the league’s mind when Marshall was in his prime, he said.

“They did not educate us on head trauma,” Marshall said. “It wasn’t a part of your annual physical. I never got one as a Jet, Giant or Redskin. That was not a part of the exam.”

During his annual press conference at the Super Bowl, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was asked by Davis if the league would be willing to give the players free health care for retired players.

This issue made the news recently when a federal judge held up a $765 million settlement of a class action lawsuit filed by more than 4,800 retired players against the NFL. The $765 million wasn’t enough money to help all of the players involved with their needs, Judge Anita Brody said.

Goodell said the league is always looking for ways to improve the health care for its former players. In 2007, the NFL instituted its 88-Plan, which provides retired players suffering from dementia, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s disease and ALS with $100,000 annually for long-term care and $88,000 for care at home.

But the NFL can’t make things safer alone. So in an attempt to minimize head trauma, the Game Plan Foundation is also teaching youngsters how to employ tackling techniques that don’t involve using the head.

“We’re trying to come up with new ways of training kids how to play tackle football-blocking and tackling,” Marshall said. “We also want to involve parents in the process of teaching kids how to play.”

Women of Power: Hoops Legends Staley and Cooper-Dyke Coach Game They Play–Superbly

17 Feb

By Scott Talley 

For the Chris Murray Report 

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

Hall-of-Fame head coach Dawn Staley has been a winner as a player and as a coach at both South Carolina and Temple.

It is often said that great players don’t make great coaches.  Apparently this adage was never communicated to Dawn Staley or Cynthia Cooper-Dyke.

Staley, one of the most decorated players in women’s basketball history is now head basketball coach of the University of South Carolina Lady Gamecocks.  At first glance, it would appear impossible for Staley to match her athletic resume, which includes being a two-time National Player of the Year (1991, 1992) while starring at point guard for the University of Virginia, playing on three gold-medal-winning Olympic teams, and 2013 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.  However, the Philadelphia native is well on her way to achieving coaching greatness.

The Lady Gamecocks entered the 2013-14 campaign on the heels of two consecutive 25-win seasons, including a stellar record of 25 wins and only eight losses last season.  And with March approaching, Staley’s nationally ranked team is a virtual lock to make this year’s NCAA Tournament, also known as the “Big Dance.

This season, the Gamecocks are 23-2 overall and are first place in the Southeastern Conference with an 11-1 recording including Sunday’s road win over No. 19 LSU.

Staley arrived at South Carolina in 2008 to turn around the Lady Gamecocks’ basketball fortunes after a highly successful run as head coach of Temple University, where she posted a 172-80 record in eight seasons, including six NCAA Tournament appearances.

 

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women's basketball.

Basketball Hall-of-Famer Cynthia Cooper-Dyke won four WNBA titles as a player and is looking to bring USC back to prominence in women’s basketball.

Like Staley, Cooper-Dyke was often the center of attention during a spectacular playing career.  The fiery guard’s highlight reel included playing on two NCAA championship teams at the University of Southern California, winning an Olympic gold medal, leading the Houston Comets to four consecutive WNBA titles, and 2010 enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

As a head college basketball coach, Cooper-Dyke also has mirrored Staley by turning losing programs into winners, including success stories at Prairie View A&M, University of North Carolina at Wilmington and Texas Southern.   When former Los Angeles Lakers standout Michael Cooper was unable to get the job done as head coach of the University of Southern California’s women’s team, Cooper-Dyke received a call from her alma mater.

Upon accepting the job she said:  “I’m very excited to coach every one of these USC players.  I’m excited about the talent we have.  I’m excited to teach and learn and motivate and really see them blossom into the players they can truly become.”

True to her words, after only a few months on the job, Cooper-Dyke’s Women of Troy are showing signs of returning to national prominence, including a home-and-home sweep of rival UCLA this season.

Under Cooper-Dyke’s leadership, USC is 16-10 overall and 9-5 in Pacific-12 Conference play and are in a three-way tie for second in the conference.

Since the NCAA began sponsoring women’s basketball in 1982, basketball has remained the most popular women’s sport and in recent years the talent has grown by leaps and bounds.  The sport’s continued rise will no doubt be fueled by coaches like Cooper-Dyke and Staley, who are committed to helping young women be successful on and off the court.

As Staley said during her Hall of Fame induction speech:  “I knew I had made the right decision to coach when I started to care more about my players than the win, and I really like wins…”

Scott Talley is a freelance writer and public relations consultant based in Detroit, Michigan. 

 

 

One Last Post from Super Bowl XLVIII: Do Championships Define a Player’s Greatness?

4 Feb

Today’s Final Report from  Super Bowl XLVIII is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

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by Chris Murray 

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle's Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

Russell Wilson reflects on Seattle’s Super Bowl win. Photo by Chris Murray.

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—With the Seattle Seahawks 43-8  thrashing of  the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII, the talk in social media, sports-talk radio and the various 24-hour cable sports networks has centered around the legacy of Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.

The current narrative among sports fans these days is that the more championship rings you have the greater you are as a player.  Of course, you will have someone saying the Manning’s greatness is now diminished because he didn’t get that second Super Bowl ring.

Of course, whenever I am in these discussions on social media or even sports-talk radio, I often point out the absolute silliness of that notion in team sports because it takes more than one player to win.

Pointing out to sports fans that it takes teams to win a championship is the equivalent of your mother telling you to eat your nasty-tasting vegetables because it’s good for you.

I think the popularity of this notion in the current era comes from one Michael Jordan who helped to lead the Chicago Bulls to six NBA championships. Never mind that he had help from teammates like Scottie Pippen and Dennis Rodman, Jordan is the face of those championships.

That mindset has invaded the ultimate team sport that is football and this is the stuff you see in the ongoing vilification of Manning after losing to Seattle.  The former Tennessee star has one Super Bowl ring, but it’s never enough for the limited, narrow scope of fans who are bedazzled by the glow of the ring or the trophy.

What they often fail to understand or maybe they don’t want to understand is the collective effort that it takes to get to win that championship.

There are a lot of great players in football who never won or even played in a championship game. Yet, in the eyes of various sports media types, the jockocracy, and fans, not winning a title somehow takes away from a player’s greatness.

During this past Super Bowl Week, I asked some prominent members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame if it was fair to tie a player’s greatness to the amount of championship rings he has or the  lack thereof.

“I would have to say that it is because that’s what this game is,” said Hall of Fame wide receiver Michael Irvin, who helped lead the Cowboys to three Super Bowl crowns during the 1990s. “I don’t care how great you play individually if you can’t get others to play great we gotta to measure you on that. We can’t call this the ultimate team sport, but give you accolades for individual success.”

Then I asked Irvin what about guys like Dan Marino, Don Fouts or Barry Sanders? Those guys were Hall-of-Fame players who never won a championship. Surely their greatness is not diminished by their lack of rings, right?

“A Tom Brady couldn’t play defense, but can Tom Brady get a little more out of the guys that are playing defense? Is Tom Brady reaching and associating with guys in a way that brings more out of them?” Irvin asked rhetorically.

“So when we say hand the ball off to the ref like Barry Sanders. Barry Sanders never spiked the ball or acted crazy. Maybe he should have because maybe it would have gotten the defense fired up and maybe they would have gone out and made some plays.”

Cris Carter, a 2013 Hall of Fame inductee and an outstanding receiver for the Minnesota Vikings would beg to differ with Irvin on that one. He said the notion of a great career being diminished because of lack of a Super Bowl ring is something created by the media.

“When you play certain positions you don’t have that much of an impact on who’s gonna win or lose the game,” Carter said. “Ninety-seven percent of players that play in the NFL don’t even play in a Super Bowl, 97 percent. So to think that you have to win a Super Bowl to be in the Hall of Fame wouldn’t be fair.”

Carter said it’s easy for Irvin to say championships define greatness because he played on a Cowboys team that had Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Larry Allen—all of whom are Hall of Famers.

Former New England Patriots linebacker and ESPN football analyst Tedy Bruschi was a part of three Super Bowl winners. I thought he would share Irvin’s sentiment, but he didn’t.

“Championships define greatness of teams that’s the way it is,” Bruschi said. “I don’t need Cris Carter to have a championship ring to know how great he is.  He’s one of the greatest of all time.”

As fans we have a weird kind of Drum Major Instinct when it comes to our athletes because we all like the glitz and the glamour of the guy who stands out in the crowd. In football and for that matter any sport, the guy who stands out does so because he stands on the shoulders of his teammates who are holding him up.

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Seattle’s Defense Reigns Supreme in Super Bowl XLVIII

3 Feb

Today’s Super Bowl Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Seattle's Kam Chancellor talks to reporters after Seahawks win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo by Chris Murray

Seattle’s Kam Chancellor talks to reporters after Seahawks win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII. Photo by Chris Murray

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J.—Right from the very first play, Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos couldn’t get out of the way of themselves and they definitely couldn’t navigate their way through a relentless, tenacious Seattle Seahawks defense.

By the time the game reached the third quarter, the Broncos found themselves in a deep hole from which they never recovered. To be quite frank, Denver did nothing to make this a competitive game.

“We needed to play really well to win and we didn’t come close to that,” said Manning, who was 34-of-49 for 280 yards with one touchdowns and two interceptions. “We weren’t sharp offensively from the get-go.”

Led by an aggressive defense that completely dominated the NFL’s No. 1 offense, Seattle surged to its first NFL Championship in franchise history with a 43-8 blowout win over the Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII in front of 82,529 fans at MetLife Stadium.

“It was a fantastic night on defense,” said Seahawks head coach Peter Carroll. “It’s still hard to get to (Manning), but we got to him in key situations and made the ball come our way.”

Seattle’s No. 1 ranked defense simply unhinged and dismantled the league’s most explosive offense by just punching them in the mouth early and often. In the first half, the Seahawks defense intercepted Manning twice-including a pick-six for a touchdown by linebacker and Super Bowl XLVIII MVP Malcolm Smith.

“We had excellent pressure, somebody got their arm on the ball, I didn’t see who,” Smith said. “I guess the ball came out high and I was just fortunate that the running back was kind of sitting there waiting on it. I just attacked it and took off.”

Smith was the guy who got the game-winning interception off a tip ball by Richard Sherman in the NFC Championship game against the San Francisco 49ers.

“I’ve always imagined myself making great plays,” Smith said. “Never thought about being the MVP.”

The Seahawks led 22-0 at half time and they held the Broncos to just 123 yards of total offense.  For the game, Seattle held Denver offense to 306 total yards. They forced four turnovers.

Russell Wilson managed the Seahawks offense well. He was an efficient 18-of-25 for 206 yards while tossing a pair of touchdown passes. The former Wisconsin star became the second African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl.

“To be the second African-American quarterback to win a Super Bowl, that’s history, man,” Wilson said. “It’s something special. It’s real. There are some many guys before me that have tried to change the game and done a great job at it. God is so good. It doesn’t matter if you’re Black, white, Latino, Asian or 5-foot-11…It’s the heart that you have.”

The Seattle special teams also got in the act as wide receiver Percy Harvin, who missed most of the season with various injuries, took the second half kickoff 87-yards for a touchdown to give Seattle a 29-0 lead.

“W e knew it was a great chance we would catch them off guard,” Harvin said. “Those guys cleared out the right side of the field. There were two defenders over there. I just took the gap and did all I could.”

A pair of touchdown passes by Wilson to Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin rounded out the scoring for Seattle. Denver got its lone score on a TD pass from Manning Demaryius Thomas late in the third quarter.

Place kicker Steven Hauschka kicked two field goals and his kickoffs into the end zone kept the Broncos pinned in their own territory.

The day started going South for the Broncos from their first play when center Manny Ramirez snapped the ball over Manning’s head. The ball was kicked out of the end zone by running back Knowshon Moreno.

“I thought I heard (Manning’s voice),” Ramirez said. “Supposedly, we were almost three seconds late on the snap. Unfortunately, things happen.”

In 12 seconds the Seahawks had a 2-0 lead. It was the fastest score in Super Bowl history.

After the free kick, Seattle drove the ball from its own 36 to the Denver nine but settled for a 33-yard field goal by Steven Hauschka to increase the lead to 5-0.

On the Seahawks next possession, after the defense held Denver to a three and out, they drove from their own 28 to the Denver 14, but settled for a 31-yard field goal by Hauschka to give them an 8-0 lead.

When the Broncos offense got back on the field for their next possession late in the first quarter, things started getting progressively worse.  On third and seven from the Broncos 23, Manning was picked off by Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor at the Denver 37.

Seven plays later, Seattle scored the game’s first touchdown on a one-yard plunge by running back Marshawn Lynch to up the margin to 15-0 with 12 minutes left in the half.

If you want to point to when the competitive portion of this game ended. It was the 69-yard interception return for a touchdown by Smith that gave the Seahawks an insurmountable 22-0 lead.

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The Other Quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII: Don’t Sleep on Russell Wilson

1 Feb

Today’s  Super Bowl XLVIII Report is powered by the Philadelphia Black Public Relations Society 

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By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson fields questions from reporters and a few fans during Super Bowl Media Day. Photo by Chris Murray.

JERSEY CITY, N.J.—Lost in all the back and forth trash talk about ducks between precocious Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is the other quarterback in Super Bowl XLVIII, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

In the midst of all the noise of Sherman comparing Manning’s passes to ducks along with the rancor of Marshawn Lynch’s stubborn refusal to play nice with the media all week, Wilson has been as quiet and unassuming in his preparation for Sunday’s game.

“I think the thing that I’ve been able to do is go through my check list and understand what I need to look at all the third down pressures, all the red zone pressures, all the two-minute situations, four-minute situations, backed up situations and really understanding those moments and making sure I’m prepared for those things,” Wilson said.

“When it happens in the game, I’ve already visualized it, I’ve already seen and I’ve already practiced it over and over inside my head.”

Conventional wisdom coming into Sunday’s game says if you stop Lynch in the running game, then you’ll force the Seahawks passing game with their receivers to beat you. Wilson said that’s an opportunity he relishes.

“Most teams try to throw the box at us because of Marshawn and our offensive line and what they can do,” Wilson said. “I look forward to do that if that’s the case.”

Late in the regular season and throughout the playoffs, Wilson wasn’t necessarily putting up the numbers that would have stat geeks jumping for joy. In wins over the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers, Wilson never panicked when he was struggling and always made that one big play to put his team over top.

“Even when the numbers weren’t there, which everybody focused on, we were still winning and he was doing his part to win the game,” said head coach Pete Carroll.  “He didn’t force things he stayed with the game plan, he stayed with the formula we wanted to win with and managed the game in great fashion in the championship game.”

Wilson is more than just a game manager if you look at the numbers. During the regular season, he completed 63 percent of his passes, threw for 3,357 yards with 26 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.

In the win over the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game, Wilson made plays to get his team going. With Seattle down 10-0 in the second quarter and the offense struggling, Wilson did a Fran Tarkenton-like scramble around the pocket for what seemed to be an eternity and found Doug Baldwin for a huge 51-yard gain that got the Seahawks offense going and eventually led to field goal.

“I think (Wilson’s running) is a great advantage for us because not only can he make plays running the ball, but when he gets forced out of the pocket, he looks down field to makes plays in the passing game and that gives us huge opportunities as receivers to make plays down the field and get open,” Baldwin said.

Early in the fourth quarter, with his team facing a fourth and seven from the 49ers 35, Wilson hit Jermaine Kearse for the touchdown to put the Seahawks on top for good. For the game, Wilson was 16-of-25 for 215 yards and that one touchdown.

“(Wilson) is an incredible competitor in every way. In preparation, in game day, he’s the epitome of what you want in your competitor. He’s got tremendous work habits,” Carroll said.

“He’s got a general all-around savvy that allows him to make great decisions under pressure. He’s extremely confident too, so no matter what is going on, he’s not going to waver in his focus and ability to handle things.”

If fans and the sports media are underestimating what Wilson can do in the passing game, the Broncos secondary won’t because of his ability to create plays with his feet.

“He extends plays,” said Denver safety Mike Adams. “If you have his receivers locked down, he can create something that’s what makes Russell Wilson unique. One thing he does do, he keeps his eyes down field and if he has to run, he going to run. We’ve got to contain that.”

With all the focus on Manning and the Broncos offense, Wilson said he’s ready for the challenge of matching throws with a legend.

“To compete against Peyton Manning is an honor and a privilege … It should be a great game,” Wilson said. “He’s been consistent on a regular basis and that’s where I want to be.”