Russell Wilson Says He Wants To Be A Two-Sport Athlete, But Could He Do It?

In a preview of Tuesday night’s Real Sports episode, HBO shared a clip of Bryant Gumbel’s interview with Seahawks QB Russell Wilson. It starts with the predictable knife-twisting about that infamous final play, but at the 1:20 mark in the video, the topic switches to Wilson’s much-publicized visits to the Texas Rangers’ Spring Training camp.

Since the Rangers acquired Wilson’s rights from the Colorado Rockies in the Rule 5 draft in Winter 2013, the QB’s two visits with the team have been viewed as publicity stunts, which isn’t a big deal — it wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened, anyway. And Wilson said all the right things to placate rabid football fans and stodgy media types who belittle any attempts by NFL players to have lives outside the gridiron.

But when Gumbel brought up the subject, Wilson finally admitted what we all kind of knew already: he still wants to play in MLB, as a two-sport athlete in the mold of Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. For any reasonable fan of sports in general, this is awesome. Two-sport stars are incredible athletes who capture our imagination by expanding the limits of what we consider possible.

Cleveland Indians v Texas Rangers
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But there are two issues at play here. First, there hasn’t been a major two-sport athlete since Deion Sanders‘ last at-bats for the Cincinnati Reds in 2001. Sports have evolved in the national consciousness to fit the 24-hour news cycle, the NFL most of all. It’s the most popular sport in the country, and its biggest stories dominate the media no matter the time of year. For better or worse (probably worse), the NFL is a year-round league, and “distraction” is a dirty word.

Additionally, Sanders was a cornerback (and wide receiver, and return man). Bo was a running back. They’re not easy positions, but neither of them had as much responsibility as a quarterback, especially one in today’s NFL. Concerns would rightly emerge about how Wilson’s preparation for games would be affected by his baseball career.

The second issue is one that Bryant Gumbel brings up himself: Is Wilson good enough to make it to the big leagues? Obviously he’s a stellar athlete, not just for a quarterback. He’s fast and he has a great arm, so he would probably (not definitely) be a good defensive second baseman (his position in the minors and spring training). But he only batted .226 in his minor league career. Unless he’s been in the batting cage a lot without anybody picking up on it, he couldn’t possibly be a better hitter than he was back then, could he?

There’s a 99 percent chance this is much ado about nothing. Wilson even caveats his desire with an “if it’s possible.” But even though we have concerns about how good he could be, we fully support Wilson following his two-sport dream. It’s been too long since the days of Bo and Deion.