Column: Seahawks’ Russell Wilson works with mental coach to stay ‘neutral’

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drops to pass against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half on Monday in Seattle.
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drops to pass against the Minnesota Vikings during the first half Monday in Seattle.
(Ted S. Warren / Associated Press)

Seattle’s Russell Wilson leads the NFL in touchdown passes. He’s the only quarterback in league history with a winning record in each of his first eight seasons. He’s squarely in the thick of the most-valuable-player conversation.

Basically, he’s cruising through life in neutral.

That’s the way he and his mental coach like to think of it, at least. The Seahawks quarterback isn’t motivated by positive or negative thinking, but by clinical and unbiased neutral thinking, as if he’s watching his career unfold from a Skycam perspective.

“Let’s say you throw an interception and your natural instinct is to linger in the frustration in terms of, ‘`I threw an interception. Now we just lost a possession. I’m frustrated,’ ” said Trevor Moawad, Wilson’s personal mental coach throughout his career. “The positive thinking is, ‘Hey, forget about it. Doesn’t really matter.’ But mentally you know it does matter, and you know it’s a mistake.


“Neutral is basically looking at the situation, evaluating what happened, and what you need to do to make sure the next pass is different.”

That might sound like psychobabble to some, but clearly it’s working for Wilson, whose team is atop the NFC West at 10-2 and Sunday night faces the Rams at the Coliseum.

The quarterback who is unfailingly upbeat — he ends every interview with “Go Hawks!” — seems to dedicate every waking moment to improving his game. And sleeping moment, for that matter. He has been known to wear a watch on one wrist and a timepiece-like sleep monitor on the other.

Whereas the Seahawks have their sports psychologist, Dr. Michael Gervais, Wilson has his performance team that includes Moawad, as well as a personal chef, trainer, massage therapist and yoga instructor.

“We talk every week, and it’s been that way throughout his entire career,” said Moawad, a 1996 Occidental College graduate who played soccer and basketball at the school. Since, he has worked with several college football programs — Alabama, Florida State and Georgia among them — along with the Jacksonville Jaguars, U.S. Special Operations and others.


Times’ Sam Farmer makes his NFL week 14 predictions.

Dec. 6, 2019

The former director of mental conditioning at the IMG Performance Institute, Moawad met Wilson during preparations for the 2012 NFL draft, in which the Seahawks made the former Wisconsin quarterback a third-round pick.

“Russell has found a neutral ground where he can stay balanced,” Moawad said. “If you look at his personality, that’s one of the best traits about him. He’s one of the most emotionally balanced quarterbacks we’ve ever seen.”

Unrelenting on the field, Wilson is famously unrevealing off of it. The next controversial thing he says will be the first. Asked this week about leading the NFL with 26 touchdown passes, he said: “I like throwing touchdowns. I think touchdowns help win games. So whatever it takes to win. I think that you want to just keep going, keep throwing touchdowns, keep trying to stay hot, and trying to find ways to win.”

Many people see him as an extension of his head coach, forever devoted to rallying those around him. He was mic’d up for Monday night’s game against Minnesota, and might as well have been Pete Carroll in pads, speaking to teammates in quick, enthusiastic, repetitive bursts.

Twitter crackled with criticism, saying he sounded robotic and rehearsed. But clearly that doesn’t bother Wilson. He’s among the most creative quarterbacks in the league, frequently improvising to make something out of nothing, so does it really matter that he’s unsurprising when wearing a microphone? Tom Brady, Drew Brees and other top quarterbacks are the same way.


Two weeks after Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson left purple vapor trails through the Rams’ defense on a Monday night at the Coliseum, Wilson gets his chance to humble the defending NFC champions on their home field. Quite a 1-2 punch, Jackson then Wilson, who, incidentally, rank that way in the MVP race.

At 6-0 away from home, Seattle is the only team that’s undefeated on the road. Seattle and San Francisco are 10-2 overall, but the Seahawks have the tiebreaker edge by virtue of an overtime victory in Santa Clara a month ago.

Wilson is 7-8 as a starter against the Rams, who have sacked him more times (56) than any other opponent. The Rams have eight interceptions against him, but none in the last four meetings, and Wilson threw four touchdown passes against them in a 30-29 win at Seattle in Week 5.

Wilson has never garnered an MVP vote. He has made a convincing case for his share of those this season, with only four interceptions.

“MVP is great,” he said. “We’re trying to win a Super Bowl.”

Simple. Factual. Neutral.

And, so far, who can argue with the results?