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Mile High Morning: Russell Wilson accepts honorary degree, gives commencement speech at Dartmouth


The Lead

Over the weekend, Russell Wilson added another accolade to his already-impressive collection, as he traveled to New Hampshire's Dartmouth College to accept an honorary degree and deliver a commencement speech to the graduating class of 2022.

Citing his accomplishments beyond just the boundaries of the football field, Dartmouth president Philip J. Hanlon awarded the degree to Wilson prior to his speech.

"For your poise, leadership and sportsmanship, both on and off the field, for your commitment to improving the lives of others and for your belief in the power of positivity and helping people reach their full potential, Dartmouth is proud to award you the honorary degree of doctor of humane letters," Hanlon said.

The honor was a meaningful one for Wilson particularly because of the Ivy League university's connections to his family; Wilson's late father attended Dartmouth and three of Wilson's uncles are also alumni, he said.

"Standing here at my father's alma mater, looking out over this place that helped him become the man he was, it's impossible not to think about his legacy," Wilson said in his speech. "And living with legacy is what I want to talk to you about today.

"Now, legacy might seem like a strange topic for a commencement speech because, I mean, this is your beginning. You're just starting out. But, graduates, if there's one thing I hope to accomplish today, it's to challenge you not to wait to think about your legacy and what that will be. Because legacy isn't just something you leave behind It's something you build, something you add to every day. My dad, he didn't get as many days as he deserved. I miss him so much. But because he lived with legacy, he's never really gone. I hear his voice all the time."

To share an example and to share how he works to continue his father's legacy, Wilson recalled the story of how "Why not you?" became the phrase that he carries with him on a daily basis and that he bestowed on his charitable foundation.

The roots lie in Wilson's first day at the Manning Passing Academy, when he and his father traveled to Louisiana.

"My first day of camp, they picked 12 kids who get to work with the one and only Peyton Manning, and I get picked," Wilson said. "Peyton tells me, of course in his voice, 'You can really spin that ball for a little guy.' Now that night, my dad takes me out to this hole-in-the-wall gumbo spot, I mean Louisiana gumbo — real, real spicy-type gumbo. And we stay there for a while because of course we don't want to go back to that crummy hotel. And he says, 'You know, you could play against the Manning brothers one day. You could play in the NFL.' And I was a confident kid, but I must have given him a look like, 'Dad, are you sure?' Because he looked me right in the eye and say, 'Why not you? Why not you?'

"Class of 2022, I have a theory that we're all born with gifts, with skills, but we're not always born with dreams. We need someone to plant that seed, light that spark. And my dad's way of lighting that spark was a simple three-word question."

The full commencement ceremony can be found below, with Wilson's speech beginning around 1:29:30.

Below the Fold

Before their offseason program ends this week, the Broncos will finish the slate with a series of minicamp practices that begins Monday. Ahead of that period, ESPN’s Jeff Legwold identified the central storyline to keep in mind.

"Look, you have a first-time head coach, a first-time offensive coordinator and a first-time defensive coordinator at the top of the coaching flow chart, all installing new schemes with a new quarterback -- you might have heard the Broncos traded for Russell Wilson in March," Legwold wrote. "Through their on-field work so far, the Broncos have flashed immense potential and a little choppiness. Minicamp will provide a good look at the status of some of the personnel groupings, especially the offensive line, where the team is still churning through combinations."

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