They were both drafted in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft. Buffalo WR T.J. Graham knew former college teammate Seattle QB Russell Wilson was not made a first-round pick at quarterback because he was barely six feet tall. Graham didn't see it as an issue for his former quarterback when it came to playing at the NFL level.
"He was going to be good regardless. I knew that," Graham told Buffalobills.com. "I could've told you that from last year. I knew whoever got him it was going to be a steal. I remember playing in the Senior Bowl and being asked by other teams about Russell and I'm thinking, 'Is this interview about me or Russell?' But I'd give him good reviews because Russell is a good guy and a good player."
Wilson finished his college career taking Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl. He transferred after there were some issues with Wilson also trying to play baseball while at N.C. State where he was a three-year starter at quarterback after earning the job as a redshirt freshman. Graham remembers the competition well.
"We had five quarterbacks going into my freshman year and it was going to be a big battle," Graham recalled. "Three older guys that had been there and then Mike Glennon the new guy that was coming in and Russell (Wilson), who was kind of the odd man out in the system. He ended up winning the job despite a lot of scrutiny and stuff. He excelled. We didn't have a great offensive line so he would make plays with his feet."
Wilson was named 1st Team All-ACC quarterback as a redshirt freshman. He was also named the conference's Rookie of the Year after throwing 17 touchdowns against just one interception. Wilson ran for four more touchdowns.
He would go on to rank fourth in the nation in touchdown passes with 31 as a sophomore and again had a 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio as a junior in 2010 with 28 touchdown passes and 14 INTs.
Bills safety Da'Norris Searcy, who squared off against him more than once remembers even when you had Wilson and the Wolfpack down the game wasn't over until the clock had expired.
"My junior year we were up on them I think it was 21-14 and he just kept playing and they ended up coming back and beating us 28-27," said Searcy. "We didn't underestimate him going in, we just knew on that day that he's a real good player and the real deal."
Graham, who was part of the offensive lineup with Wilson at N.C. State for three seasons, considered him a true leader.
"If something was going wrong you knew you could always lean on Russell," he said. "So he's a leader by example and on the field. I learned a lot from him. He was a good leader."
He described Wilson as calm and cool in the huddle. Never one to yell unless he had to get his point across, Graham said just being on the field with him made you feel more comfortable.
Finishing his college career at Wisconsin all he did for the Badgers was throw 33 touchdowns against just four interceptions with almost a 73 percent completion percentage along with the Rose Bowl berth.
Bills head coach Chan Gailey spent time with Wilson during the pre-draft process leading up to the 2012 NFL draft and came away impressed.
"He's a great leader, extremely smart, extremely productive. If you took away the size he was right up there with the top quarterbacks and that's what everybody had a problem with," said Gailey. "He had done it in college, but you always have that thing in the back of your mind and he's proved everybody else wrong and proved himself right and he's an impressive person and an impressive player."
Wilson has quickly adapted to the NFL game ranking seventh in the league in passing with a 94.9 rating. He's also sixth in fourth-quarter passing where he's got six touchdowns and just one interception. But the Seahawks QB credits a quality defense and a strong running game in helping him.
"We have a tremendous running game, so to hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch is a great asset to have and we've been very effective and efficient with the football," Wilson said.
Over his last five games he has thrown for over 1,000 yards with 10 touchdowns and one interception. Seattle over that span went 4-1 including a comeback overtime win at Chicago where Wilson led a pair of 12-play touchdown drives covering 80 and 97 yards.
"That's Russell. There were many times in games where we thought, 'We're not out of it because we're going to drive down the field and if the protection breaks down Russell will make a play,'" said Graham. "He's just a winner. That guy just loves to win."
"I just play the game the way I think it should be played and play humbly and go all out every time I step on the field," said Wilson.
Looking ahead to Sunday, Graham knows it'd be best if the Bills can stake themselves to a respectable lead having seen Wilson orchestrate comebacks first hand.
"We can't leave it a close game," Graham said. "We've got to separate ourselves because if there's a chance for him to win it most likely the percentages would be very high. We've got to keep it out of Russell's hands."