It wasn’t long into former UW Badger and current Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s commencement speech at Camp Randall Stadium this past weekend until he was poking fun at himself and his season-ending interception against the New England Patriots in Super Bowl XLIX.
Wilson told the graduates that he was at the event to share some of the things he has learned. “Things like if you’re dating a woman that’s way out of your league, ask her to marry you,” Wilson laughed. “If you can throw a football 80 yards, for some reason people think that’s pretty cool. And if you’re playing the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl and you’ve got 26 seconds left and you’re down by four and it’s second-and-goal on their 1-yard line, try not to throw an interception.
“That’s purely, purely hypothetical though, of course,” Wilson added.
The theme of Wilson’s speech as he addressed graduates during UW-Madison’s spring commencement ceremony May 14 focused on what to do when life tells you ‘no.’ Wilson stressed to the graduates to know what they’re capable of and to always be prepared.
“But here’s what I realized. In a few hours, all of us will leave Camp Randall with the exact same mission: to make the most of whatever talents we were born with, whatever gifts God’s given us,” he said. “Because if you’re earning a degree from UW-Madison, the question isn’t whether you have something to offer to the world — you definitely have something to offer to the world — the question is how and whether you’ll do it.”
Wilson told the graduates that he misses his dad — Harrison Wilson III, who died from diabetes in 2010 — every single day and that people have asked him if he had five more minutes with him, what would he say to him?
“I wouldn’t say anything at all. I’d just hug him. That’s what I’d do. Because that’s the kind of relationship my dad and I had. He gave me so much,” Wilson said. “Maybe most of all, he gave me the gift of perspective. Losing him was hard, but thinking about him now, I don’t feel sad. I feel blessed. I feel blessed for all the days we got together. I feel blessed because I know he’s in a better place. And I feel blessed knowing that if he were here today, the thing that he’d most be proud of isn’t a Super Bowl ring or a new contract or a big speech at Camp Randall. He’d be proud of my family — what a strong woman my mom is, about my brother and how well he’s doing, about the amazing, amazing young woman my sister has become.”
The Badgers are known for playing House of Pain’s “Jump Around” before the start of the fourth quarter in football games at Camp Randall, and Wilson gathered around with the other people on stage and began the ritual with the graduating class of 2016.
Wilson mentioned that Thomas Edison once said, “I have not failed. I have just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
“He was just that much closer to making the right one,” Wilson said. “I’m thinking a lot about those moments right now, and I bet many of you are too because if you’re here today, it’s a sign that you’ve achieved so much more and you can achieve so much more soon. Now, if my dad were here with us, this is the point where he’d remind us that potential means we just haven’t done it yet. And you know, he’d be right.
“But if we do what we need to when life tells us no, if we know what we’re capable of, if we stay prepared no matter what, if we keep our sense of perspective even when times are tough, then I know that together we’re going to do amazing things with our potential and achieve our greatest dreams,” Wilson added.
“So, on Wisconsin. I would say good luck, but I don’t believe in good luck. Go make it happen. This is my story. Now it’s time to write your own. Congratulations to the class of 2016. I’m out.”