He's thrown more TD passes than first-round selections Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III and has the Seattle Seahawks in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
But at five foot 11, Russell Wilson believes he has something to prove every time he steps on to the field in the NFL.
"I'm very self-motivated and I also think I'm playing for those generations of kids who've been told and will be told that they can't do something," the Seahawks' rookie quarterback said during a conference call. "I believe my height does not define my skillset and I try to play at a high level every time I step out on the field."
The 206-pound Wilson will look to solidify the Seahawks' playoff prospects Sunday when they face the Buffalo Bills (5-8) at Rogers Centre as part of the Bills Toronto Series.
Wilson, 24, was a highly regarded 2012 NFL draft prospect following a solid college career split between North Carolina State and Wisconsin. He boasted a 60.9 career completion percentage with 11,720 yards, 109 touchdowns and 29 interceptions.
Wilson also ran for 1,421 yards and 23 touchdowns, becoming just the fifth collegian to surpass 1,000 yards rushing and 5,000 yards passing in a career.
Wilson was especially productive in his one season at Wisconsin, completing 225-of-309 passes (72.8 per cent) for 3,175 yards and 33 touchdowns with just four interceptions. He also ran for 338 yards on 79 carries and scored six TDs, compiling an NCAA-record 191.7 pass efficiency rating.
But many NFL officials couldn't look past Wilson's height, even though he's as tall as New Orleans star quarterback Drew Brees. There were concerns Wilson wouldn't be able to look over his offensive line once in the NFL.
Luck (who is six inches taller than Wilson) and the six-foot-two Griffin were selected first and second, respectively, in this year's draft. Wilson had to wait until the third round before being taken 75th overall by Seattle.
However, Wilson has proven to be a steal. He has completed 63 per cent of his passes for 2,492 yards with 20 TDs and nine interceptions and has more touchdown strikes than either Luck or Griffin, making him a strong candidate for the NFL's top rookie award.
"In terms of a chip on my shoulder, I just play the game the way it's supposed to be played," he said. "That's to play humbly and have a respect for the game and go all-out every single time you step on the field.
"Do I have a little extra motivation? My motivation is to play for the Lord and play for the family and play for myself.''
Wilson said the Seahawks haven't pared the playbook back to simplify things for their rookie starter.
"They haven't simplified it at all," he said. "We have a tremendous running game obviously so to hand the ball off to Marshawn Lynch is a great asset to have.
"But in terms of on the football we've been very effective and efficient and that's how we want to play.''
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll raised eyebrows when he named Wilson his starter ahead of incumbent Tavares Jackson and free-agent acquisition Matt Flynn. But it wasn't the first time Carroll went outside the box for a No. 1 quarterback.
In 2009 when Carroll was the head coach at USC, he named freshman Matt Barkley as the Trojans' starter.
"I think it's a trend we're going to continue to see," Carroll said of quarterbacks starting in the NFL as rookies. "I think it's because, and we've seen it through the college years, the kids are getting exposed so much earlier to good coaching and coaches are so much more in tune with the throwing game now.
"When we got him (Barkley) he was on our practice field for five days and after that I knew he could be the starting quarterback for us. I think that's when it was really clear to me that we're in a new day.''
Wilson said the coaching he received early in his football career is one reason for his NFL success.
"I believe I've been coached extremely well to help me be successful in the NFL," he said. "I think that's part of it and my faith and my self-confidence, I think that helps."
Wilson isn't overly surprised with his play this season, saying he has always had high expectations of himself and his team.
"I'm not afraid to excel," he said. "That's what my dad always used to teach me.
"I believe if you want to play, you have confidence in yourself. If you're a self-motivator, you want the best from yourself and your teammates. I look to those opportunities. I wait for those opportunities."
The Bills will be the home team Sunday but in name only. They're just 1-3 in regular-season games at Rogers Centre — that victory being a 23-0 decision last year against Washington — where the crowd's allegiance is often evenly split between Buffalo and its visitor.
Seattle is 6-0 at home but just 2-5 away from CenturyLink Field. However, at least the Seahawks will be playing indoors — the forecast for Orchard Park, N.Y. on Sunday was for cold temperatures and rain — and won't have to deal with the Bills' loud, rabid supporters at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
Seattle is also coming off a 23-17 road win over Chicago on Dec. 2 but Wilson said Buffalo's defensive line — anchored by end Mario Williams — will give the Seahawks plenty to contend with. After a slow start, Williams, who signed a six-year, US$100-million deal with the Bills this off-season, has sacks in five straight games.
"They're pretty strong up front and they make a lot of action up there," Wilson said. "I know Mario Williams . . . he's a great player, he has so much ability and the same with the rest of the guys up front.
"It's gonna be a battle for sure and we're going to have to play our best."