Even before Wilson signed with the Rockies, he made an impression. He was scheduled to fly to Denver for a quick weekend and to get his contract done shortly after he was drafted in 2010.
Matthews happened to be driving not too far from where Wilson was living when the prospect called him.
"He said he was worried he couldn't properly turn a double play at second and asked if I'd teach him," Matthews said. "The only place we could do it was a parking lot. So we're rolling balls and in 20 minutes, I taught him. I get a call a few days later from our infield coach after Russell worked out, and he tells me it looked like Russell had been turning double plays the right way for years."
But Wilson wasn't as quick a study with the bat, something that most minor league players will tell you takes repetition to really show improvement.
Wilson had just 315 minor league at-bats to his name before football became his life. He hit .229 with 22 extra-base hits, 26 RBIs and a .356 slugging percentage with Class A Tri-City (2010) and Asheville (2011). Those who saw him say he needed work on pitch recognition and shortening his swing, something that comes with time.
Wilson's last manager at the professional level bristles at the idea that those numbers mean Wilson somehow failed in his attempt to play baseball.
"It's unfair to say he didn't make it," said Joe Mikulik, who managed Wilson in Asheville three years ago and is now the Rangers' Class A Myrtle Beach manager. "It was his choice to move on to something else. I would never say he failed. I saw him succeed. He succeeded regardless of his numbers. From where he started to where he was at when he made the decision to go to Wisconsin, I felt like he was improving and he was on his way to being a better player. Who knows? He just didn't have many at-bats."
What if he got them now? Could Wilson get up to speed and try to become a two-sport star?
"That's very difficult to do," Mikulik said. "I don't think at that position he could. You look at the best two-sport athletes and for me, that's Bo [Jackson] and Deion [Sanders] -- and that's a running back and a defensive back. The quarterback position is very difficult. When he leaves here, he'll go right to that video room in Seattle. They won a Super Bowl, and he won't be complacent. There are a lot of demands on his time.
"But I don't want to count him out. He's so athletic and motivated, you never know. If he wanted to pursue something in baseball, I don't know how far he could go. It would be difficult."
Mikulik, Matthews and Kemp see Monday as a terrific opportunity for young Rangers players to pick Wilson's brain and try to learn something about commitment, work ethic and focus.
"I want as many players as possible talking to him," Mikulik said. "Plenty of young players need the mental preparation about what it takes to be a winner in life. It's lacking at times with our young people. This guy's got it. He's got leadership abilities. He's got motivational abilities. He's got something that when he was going into that draft, the NFL draft, I don't think a lot of people saw what they just saw. I saw it. I lived it. These kids can learn from it."