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Russell Wilson asks the important question: Why not you?

Russell Wilson: Beyond the gridiron
Russell Wilson: Beyond the gridiron 05:34

It's an August morning after a late, pre-season road game. Most NFL players are still in bed, but Russell Wilson is spending his only day off of the week running sprints and playing games with kids from a Seattle mentorship program.

CBS News special correspondent James Brown asked Wilson, "Why is that so important to you?"

"A lot of it for me has just been, if we can inspire one kid, [that] boy or girl may change the world," Wilson replied. "If they can just get a little glimpse of hope, get a little glimpse of what God's done for me in my life, then it's worth it."

Russell Wilson sprinting with Seattle youth from the Friends of the Children program. CBS News

Life is good for Russell Wilson. At just 30 years of age, he is in his eighth year as the starting quarterback of the Seattle Seahawks. After leading the franchise to six playoffs, two Super Bowl appearances and one Super Bowl title, the Seahawks signed him in April to a four-year, $140 million contract.

He is now the highest-paid football player in the National Football League. Brown asked, "Did you imagine and envision that this could be the case?"

"I never thought about the money part of it," he replied. "I always thought about trying to be the best, though. I mean, I can't lie to you. I've always envisioned myself working to be the best."

Working to be the best was a lesson ingrained by his family for generations. His grandfather was a grandson of slaves who rose to be a university president. His father played baseball and football at Dartmouth.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson. CBS News

Wilson said, "I was fortunate: I had two parents that were both educated. My mom and my dad, they fell in love at UVA actually, University of Virginia. My dad was in law school. My mom, she was an undergrad. And they met and sure enough, that was history!"

The Wilsons had three children. "My mom, she was always the one that was really into us making sure that we went to church, making sure that we would pray together, making sure we would do all those things together," Wilson said. "But she showed me faith when my dad was sick."

Wilson's father died from complications of diabetes when Russell was a junior in college. The loss hurt because the two were very close.

Brown asked, "What impact has your father left on you?"

"My dad used to always say, 'Why not you? Why not you, son? Why not you? Why not you be a pro ball quarterback? Why not you win a Super Bowl?' I think the reality is, that's the fundamental question we all have to ask ourselves at some point."

After a stellar prep school career, Wilson played football and baseball at North Carolina State. He graduated in three years, and transferred to the University of Wisconsin, where he quarterbacked the team to the Big 10 championship.

But pro scouts thought Wilson should pursue baseball instead of football because, at 5'11", he is nearly half a foot shorter than the average NFL quarterback.

"I think for me, it wasn't about proving people wrong; I think I was just proving myself right," Wilson said.

And what was right in your mind?

"I knew that I could play ball, I knew I just needed the opportunity," he said. "And sure enough, the Seattle Seahawks called me, and it was a good day."

The Seahawks drafted Wilson in the third round in 2012, sparking the franchise's turnaround.

Raiders Seahawks Football
Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson passes during warmups before an NFL football preseason game against the Oakland Raiders, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019, in Seattle. Elaine Thompson/AP

Today, he has all of the trappings of success: fame, wealth and celebrity. After signing his new contract, he surprised his mother with a new house. He is married to pop singer Ciara, and they are raising her son, Future, and their daughter, Sienna, together.

"Ciara's a girl from Atlanta, Georgia, Southern girl," Wilson said. "I'm from Richmond, Virginia. We're Southern. Just wanna raise our kids as normal as possible."

Wilson's clean-cut image has attracted a wide variety of sponsors. But his main goal is to use his business interests to fuel his charitable efforts, mainly through his Why Not You Foundation. He told Brown, "If a company doesn't have any thought process on making a difference, and making a difference in the same way that I'm thinking about making a difference for kids and everything else, we're probably not a great fit."

His commitment was evident as "Sunday Morning" followed Wilson on his day off. He and Ciara announced their part ownership of the Seattle Sounders soccer team. Brown visited Wilson's office, which houses all of his creative interests under one roof. But it was clear that his heart was really with the kids from the Friends of the Children program his foundation supports.

"The cool thing about football is this: Every time I step into a huddle with those ten guys, everybody's different," Wilson said, "We're all there for one mission. We're all there to win together. And I think that's what I want to be able to try to encourage our communities here in Seattle, our communities across the country, around the world, to be more like a huddle."

The Seattle Seahawks QB is the highest-paid player in the NFL, but the impact he wants to have on youth goes far beyond money and football. CBS News

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Story produced by Alvin Patrick. 

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