7:00 A.M. (EASTERN TIME)
Come on in, Wash. — Six months after the most successful season for a quarterback duo in Seattle Seahawks history, DK Metcalf reluctantly followed Russell Wilson into the shallow end of the pool.
They recently went to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, for a late winter vacation that was preceded by an extended stay at Wilson’s off-season home in San Diego. They had been training together for a month and a half, but they also wanted to have fun. They played golf, made baskets, enjoyed the sun and… although Metcalfe didn’t know it then… Swim.
There was only one problem.
Yes, Metcalf, who stands six feet tall and weighs 229 pounds, is one of the most physically gifted players in the NFL. According to NFL Next Gen statistics, he peaked at 22.64 mph earlier this season in his famous Buddha Baker chase. He can easily do a basketball dunk and jump high enough to hover over the goal posts in the end zone, a demonstration of athleticism he often does during pre-game warm-ups.
But Metcalf couldn’t swim.
Wilson, who swims regularly as part of his weekly recreation program, had no idea of Metcalf’s lack of skill in the water until he called him as they flew to the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula.
No, I’m just going to sit on the side, Metcalfe said. I can’t swim.
Metcalf became angry when Wilson insisted on tutoring before giving in.
Wilson calmed him down by first getting comfortable with the water and feeling fully immersed in Metcalf. He showed her how to inhale through the mouth above the water and exhale down through the nose, eventually crawling forward.
Metcalf was in trouble.
We started slow and then we were literally in the water for three and a half hours, maybe four hours, swimming the whole time, Wilson said. He didn’t want to come out. I am: Brother, we have to eat… Come on, let’s go. … We then ordered lunch by the pool and stayed there for a few more hours. So he was there every day. Now he swims alone here all the time.
This moment marked the beginning of a counter-season that was described by both actors as crucial to the development of the connection that has achieved historic success in 2020. Wilson broke his own franchise record with 40 touchdown passes. Metcalfe caught 10 (tied with Tyler Lockett for the lead) and broke 35-year-old Steve Largent’s club record of 1,303 receiving yards and earned his first Pro Bowl selection.
Error! The file name is not specified. DK Metcalf and Russell Wilson became friends just after Metcalf was selected in the second round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Joe Nicholson/USA TODAY Sports
This allowed the Seahawks to score the most points in team history (459) en route to a 12-4 record, an NFC West title and a wild-card game against the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday at Lumen Field (4:40 p.m., Fox).
With Russell and DK, what they were able to do for me in the offseason was really special, Jake Heaps, Wilson’s personal quarterback coach, told ESPN Jake Heaps, because they already had a connection through the work they did in the offseason and obviously all year and DK showed what he can do as a rookie.
But it was about making him special. The idea was to make it something that would be a wonder for more than a season. It’s permanent. He’s a legitimate builder. It’s a chance to create something that no one in the league can stop.
When do we start?.
Kuchi watched Metcalf up close from the wall in the Virginia Mason Athletic Center when the Seahawks held their first mini-camp practice in May 2019. He was aware of his incredible speed combination, but he wanted to see for himself that the concerns about Metcalfe’s route were justified.
His immediate impression was that Metcalfe was better than what was advertised in that department and had the resources to improve it. He wrote to Wilson and said: Hey, for your information, you have a monster in Washington, and if you can take this guy down, he’ll be special.
I can’t wait, Wilson replied.
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Wilson could already imagine his new receiver rolling up his sleeves. He had contacted Metcalf shortly after the Seahawks traded him for the final second round of the draft pick, according to FaceTimed. Tears are still drying on Metcalfe’s face after his breakup in a conversation with coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider.
The first thing he said to Wilson: When do we get to work?
I have a lot of respect for guys who come in with the right attitude, Wilson said. There are so many guys on our team… But a guy like that has all the talent in the world, he could do this and that quietly. And he is one of the first on the field every day, he is one of those who are always ready to work, he is always ready to do extra drills.
Those who know Metcalf describe him as a first-in, last-out worker, a man who has to be physically dragged off the field because he wants to do every practice rehearsal even though he plays almost every game day – a man who shows up at dawn when his quarterback asks him what Metcalf did for his rookie season.
The annual off-season workout usually lasts a few days, with a handful of receivers, small pieces of candles and speed bumps; Wilson and Metcalfe did so for more than a month. And there were only two on the quarterback team.
When Russell said: I want you to come to California, and I want you here at 6am. DK was there, and not many other guys were willing to do it, Heaps said. It’s a lot: Traveling, settling into an Airbnb or a hotel somewhere, he really impressed Russell with his work in the off-season.
While the annual off-season workout usually lasts a few days with a handful of receivers, small pieces of candles and running backs, this one lasted over a month. And for the most part, only Wilson and Metcalfe played on the quarterfinal team.
A typical day starts with waking up at 6:30 in the morning, physical therapy and getting in shape. Then the football work begins with the heaps.
They’ve gone through what’s called mini-games, which means they participate in the game and refine the details of each play: how Metcalf should go about his business, where Wilson should put the ball, what they expect from the defense, etc. They also discussed the importance of the rules of the game and how to play the game. Then they went upstairs and finished early in the morning.
– Matches, X-factors and other for each team
– Experts predict surprises, QB under pressure
– Myths for 14 teams in the playoffs
– Schedule, brackets, TV time and other
– What went wrong for teams that didn’t make the playoffs.
You’ve just seen them grow more and more together over time, Heaps said.
According to Wilson, the two were closer on a personal level. The one-on-one gave them a chance to talk about life and business at the end of the day, and it allowed Metcalfe to see Wilson in a rare form: with his hair down and his legs up.
It was really cool for DK to see another side of Russell and for Russell to show that other side, Heaps said.
Wilson had no such connection to any of his main targets in Seattle. His relationship with Doug Baldwin, the number one long-time star, is somewhat controversial. He was a good friend of Jimmy Graham and Lockett, but he and Metcalfe are on a different level.
It’s just a connection that goes beyond football, Metcalfe said.
Wilson is nine years older, he is a husband and a father. But, as he says, the same things are important to Metcalfe as they are to him: Faith, family and the desire to be great.
Wilson’s stepson, Future, and his daughter, Sienna, fell in love with Metcalfe. One summer, when he came to their Seattle home for a few hours, he spent most of his time with the Wilson’s newborn son, Win.
He’s family to me, Wilson said.
Error! The file name is not specified. DK Metcalf has combined hard work with athleticism and flair to establish himself as one of the top receivers in the NFL. Rick Scuteri/AP
Wilson wants them to be the Joe Montana and Jerry Rice version of the time, and he’s not afraid to say so. Earlier this season, he sent Metcalfe a message about Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison, who scored 112 touchdowns in 11 seasons in the NFL.
These two boys want to be the best, Mr. Heaps said. So if you have that fundamental belief and also a work ethic where those two aren’t just talking – is that what I’m going to do to get there? — these two speak the same language.
He and Metcalfe regularly talk about these goals and what it will take to achieve them.
Longevity and health, to name just two things. Metcalfe, 23, hasn’t missed a game in two seasons despite a string of injuries in college, including a broken neck that nearly ended his career. Wilson, 32, hasn’t missed a game in nine seasons and wants to play until he’s 40.
According to him, he and Metcalfe hadn’t even penetrated to the depths of the room.
We haven’t done anything yet, he said. We’re just getting started.
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