"I think people here, almost more than anyplace else, care about who they're cheering for," Nemhauser said. "I don't know if that's the case in other places. I don't think people would be thrilled to have an a--h--- who was also really good. They want to believe the person they're cheering for is a good person, that he's someone they'd invite to dinner."
Eve Kopp was skeptical when she first heard about the Seahawks rookie who called Seattle Children's Hospital, unsolicited, asking if there was anything he could do to help. Could he and his wife come by and spend some time with patients? Kopp felt she'd done this dance with professional athletes before, and it frequently resulted in a few awkward, superficial photo ops and eventual disappointment. Most of the staff had never even heard of Russell Wilson. At the time, he was just a third-string quarterback, fresh out of the University of Wisconsin.
"We didn't believe it at first," says Kopp, the director of corporate annual giving for the hospital's foundation. "Some athletes have it written into their contracts to do charity appearances, and so it's easy for them to select Seattle Children. It might even be part of a requirement from the team. Typically, we see them once and that's about it. We figured with Russell, we'd see him once or twice, and then never again."
Wilson, however, kept showing up, every Tuesday. He enjoyed what the hospital initially set up for him, goofing around with a big group of kids in a playroom. But what he really wanted, he admitted, was to spend time with families in one-on-one settings. Something that would allow him to have real conversations with them, if only for 30 minutes. Kopp was stunned. And thrilled.
"It's really rare for an athlete to feel comfortable going room to room, seeing sick kids with bandages all over and IVs in their arms," Kopp said. "But he felt like it grounded him. It took him away from the regular chaos of his life."
Wilson explained that he'd lost his father, Harrison, to complications from diabetes in 2010, and seeing his dad struggle with the disease for several years meant he wasn't uncomfortable in hospitals. As long as it was OK, he'd like to keep coming back, keep meeting families and spending time with even the sickest kids, week after week. Even as his football responsibilities grew, he kept coming back for what the hospital soon dubbed as Blue Tuesdays, a play off the team colors.
He didn't want publicity, he preferred to keep it relatively quiet, but once he got permission from the families, he started posting pictures on Twitter of himself and his wife together with kids they visited. He wanted to show the world there was nothing to be afraid of.
"A lot of people hear about the visits and they start speculating what the real motive really is," Kopp says. "It's almost too good to be true. But it's really this simple: He was raised right, and he has amazing morals and ethics. He's an avid Christian, and he wants to walk the talk. I think his dad is in his heart every time he goes room to room. I think it's something that would have made his dad very proud."