Phil Knight is one of the most influential entrepreneurs of all time.
During his unparalleled career, Knight, a graduate of the University of Oregon, laid the Oregon trail in iconic sportswear when he teamed up with legendary Ducks track and field coach Bill Bowerman to launch Nike, Inc.
By the 21st century, Nike had retail outlets and distributors in more than 170 countries and its logo, which later became known as the “swoosh,” became one of the most recognizable brand logos in the world.
Nike began paying some of the world’s most prominent athletes to endorse their brand too. Today, LeBron James, Cristiano Ronaldo and Tiger Woods all represent the Nike brand.
For Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who began his career in Nike, switched to Under Armour, and then returned to Nike on a long-term deal in 2016, he’ll never forget the moment he met Knight in person.
On Barstool Sports’ Pardon My Take, Wilson explained what it was like meeting the Nike founder after Wisconsin’s Rose Bowl loss to Oregon during the 2011 college football season.
“After that press conference, I’ll never forget, I still had my cleats on. We were an Adidas team. Sure enough, Phil Knight comes out right in front of me. He goes, ‘oh man, nice game, Russell,” Wilson recounted. “I want to make you a Nike athlete one day. When you’re ready to play in the NFL, I think you’re going to be a Nike athlete and one of the greatest athletes of all time.’
As Wilson began to set his sights on an NFL career, he was told he was too small to play in the NFL and too short to play at QB. But Knight saw something special in the former Wisconsin standout and future Super Bowl champion. The rest, as they say, was history.
The Seahawks signal caller has learned a few lessons from Knight’s passion for sportswear. Wilson produced his own signature line of apparel and accessories and shoes under Nike, including a Nike logo of his own.
If Wilson is lucky, one day it will become one of the most iconic logos too.