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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Wednesday, April 17, 2024
Russell Wilson

Russell Wilson led the Badgers to a Rose Bowl appearance in his only season at Wisconsin.

Russell Wilson Passing Academy returns to Wisconsin

Early on a summer Saturday morning, it might be difficult to find 450 children ages 9-17 out and about in the entire city of Madison.

But a Super Bowl champion quarterback in town is motivation enough to get people out of bed.

For some who did wake up early enough, the Russell Wilson Passing Academy can mean the world.

Last year, the RWPA, which also welcomes inner-city and underprivileged youth through sponsorships, bussed in a participant from Milwaukee. The child, who has one parent in jail and another addicted to drugs, told Russell Wilson the camp changed his life.

One year, and one Super Bowl ring later, Wilson is back in Madison to change lives again.

"I'm just really hoping that I can do that again for multiple people, and at least just one of them," Wilson said.

The RWPA, sponsored by American Family Insurance, lasts one day and focuses on teaching traditional football skills while encouraging the development of high character, competitiveness and respect for authority, according to its website.

"We want fundamentals, great fundamentals," Wilson said. "We want the kids to be engaged and in love with the game of football and teach them how to be passionate about the game of football. And that's one of the best things this school, the University of Wisconsin, showed me."

Wilson transferred to play at Wisconsin in 2011 after playing at North Carolina State. In his only season leading the Badgers, he threw for 33 touchdowns, which is the most in a single season for Wisconsin and second in Big Ten history behind Drew Brees (39).

"It was one of those things that, I believed it was going to work out for me," Wilson said. "I believed in myself. I believed in my teammates. When I walked into [Camp Randall Stadium] for the very first time, I knew it was going to be something special."

Even though he spent a short time playing for the Badgers, Wilson feels a strong connection to Madison.

"Coming to this school made a huge difference in my life just because of the friendships I made. Not even just about football, it's greater than that. The school is great too as well," he said. "That's why I come back here ... This school has meant the world to me."

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Wilson held high aspirations when he arrived in Madison. One big part of the camp happens at the American Family Insurance Dream Tent, where Wilson encourages campers to believe in their dreams like he did only a few years ago.

"To share my dreams with these kids, and then to start really thinking about their dreams and what they can do in the long run ... That's impactful, that's the way I used to think all the time," Wilson said.

The camp has already made appearances in Seattle, Wash., Richmond, Va. and Raleigh, N.C. this summer and will continue on to Vancouver, Canada, Los Angeles, Calif. and Seattle twice more before Wilson and the Seahawks approach the NFL season, where they open against the Green Bay Packers Sept. 4.

As Wilson left the cameras and microphones to start the camp, he turned back and said, "Thanks guys, On, Wisconsin."

But the RWPA is about more than just Wisconsin, and it is about more than just football.

It's about changing lives, changing perspective. It's about Wilson sharing the parts of his life that helped him reach where he is, not as a professional, but as a person.

And it is certainly something worth getting out of bed for.

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