A lot of people have been asking me the same questions this week. They want to know how we were able to come back against Green Bay. They want to know how we were able to right the ship this season and get back to the Super Bowl. It starts with a little red button.
When we were down against Green Bay in the fourth quarter in the NFC Championship Game, it seemed like everything that could go wrong had gone wrong. Personally, I was having one of my worst games of my career. But after every single throw — whether it was a tipped ball or an incompletion or a touchdown — I’d turn back toward the huddle, close my eyes and think of a table in an empty room. On that table was a big red RESET button, just like in the movies. I’d imagine pressing the button. Boom. On to the next one. What’s the situation now? How can I make a play?
It might sound silly, but I’ve been working on that visualization for years now with Dr. Mike Gervais and Trevor Moawad. It’s like my very own mind trick. No matter what the situation, no matter how bad the circumstances are, I can close my eyes, hit the red button, and focus on the moment at hand.
I can honestly say that in Green Bay, even when we were down by three scores, my mind was never wavering. I believed we were going to win. That might sound naive, but that’s what makes our team so special. Every time I went to the sideline after a series, a teammate would come up to me and look me in my eyes and say, “One Mission, Russ.”
Ever since we were struggling at 3-3 earlier this season, we talked about our One Mission. This isn’t your standard rah-rah speech. The mission isn’t just about winning the Super Bowl. It’s about something bigger than football. It’s about playing for one another, even if that means sacrificing personal stats, even if that means going an entire game without getting the ball.
Coming off a Super Bowl win like we did, it’s easy to go into training camp saying, “These are my brothers.” When you’re winning, it’s all easy. But those bonds are never truly tested until you’re faced with adversity. The outside world questioned us plenty this year. Are we together? Do we have leaders?
In truth, it pushed us closer than ever. Being on this team has been the most exciting year of my life. It taught me about respecting the process and embracing the journey of life’s ups and downs. Because there will be downs. You will lose a game, or have a bad day at work, or mess up on a math test. The key is to surround yourself with amazing people who will help you grow. I’ve been able to lean on guys like Marshawn Lynch and Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin. I’ll never forget when Doug came to me after the Rams game when we were really struggling to find our identity, and with all his fire and passion, he said, “You know what Russ? We’re leaning on you, man.”
Doug and Jermaine are great players who have a relentless work ethic, but they’re even better human beings.
Faith is a big part of my life, and I talk to my pastor Judah Smith almost every day. One thing that he has really instilled in my heart this season is the idea of “surrender and surround.” Surrender yourself to a higher cause, and surround yourself with special people.
This team is filled with late-round draft picks and unheralded free agents and underdogs who have turned into incredible football players. But when people ask me what makes this team special, it’s hard for me to explain in the usual terms. The defense is unbelievable, of course. Marshawn is a one-in-a-generation running back. But it’s about more than just football. I’ve had so many conversations with Robert Turbin this year that have gone late into the night. Robert is my running back. But he’s also the guy who I talk to about life. About who we want to be 15 years from now, not just as football players but as husbands and fathers.
That’s just as important to my legacy as whatever happens this Sunday.
There’s a Bible verse that is very close to my heart. John 3:30. “He must increase, I must decrease.” That defines this year for me. In my life personally, I’ve noticed that people tend to put you on a pedestal when things are going well. It’s easy to hit the reset button when things are going bad. But will you be able to hit the reset button when things are going well? That’s a challenge that’s bigger than football.
When I saw Jermaine come down with the ball in the end zone in overtime, it was one of the most emotional moments of my career. But as incredible as that moment was, I tried to close my eyes and hit the reset button. On to the next one. There’s only ONE MISSION.
Photographs By USA TODAY SPORTS