KENNEWICK — When Dana Brunsdon of Kennewick agreed to open her house up to the Tri-City Dust Devils' host-a-player program in 2010 and 2011, she figured she might have a few players come through who one day would play in the big leagues.
She was right, but she had the sport wrong. One of those players was Russell Wilson.
Wilson, now the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, leads his team into the playoffs at 1:30 today against the Washington Redskins at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
"I expected to have pro baseball players, not football players," Brunsdon said. "I didn't know he played football the first month he lived here. Dominic (Altobelli) asked if I knew who he was and we started Googling him and have been following him ever since."
Altobelli was the other Dust Devils player who lived with Wilson and Brunsdon that summer.
Wilson played for the Colorado Rockies' Single-A baseball team for just two months before returning to North Carolina State University, then transferring to Wisconsin to quarterback the football team. He eventually was taken by Seattle in the third round of the NFL draft and won the starting job as a rookie.
"The whole time he was here the other guys would go hang out and do things, but he never left the house," Brunsdon said. "When he was done with his work, he would sit in the living room with a football in one hand and a playbook in the other hand, studying his North Carolina stuff.
"I don't know if he ever sleeps. I'd get up during the night and he'd be studying the playbook. He is a driven person."
That much is obvious, considering his success for the Seahawks this season. He tied the NFL record for single-season passing touchdowns as a rookie. And he has the Seahawks back in the playoffs for the first time since 2010.
That success doesn't surprise Brunsdon, who keeps in contact with Wilson through text messages.
"I'm inspired by him, even as a woman 25 years older," she said. "I'm more excited for him because I know how hard he works. He is a great human being."
Wilson's humanity extends to charity. He's a national ambassador for CR3 Diabetes Association, a support group for diabetics who can't afford care. His father battled a series of diabetes-related strokes before passing away in 2010.
Recently, Brunsdon, who works at Back Street Hair Design, helped put together a fundraiser for the association. She raffled off some T-shirts signed by Wilson, raising $1,800.
Brunsdon got into the host program when a friend who participated told her about it. After her kids left home, she figured she had two empty bedrooms that could be put to good use by the players.
"I love baseball," she said. "It is fun to see the internal works of what they had to do to get there, and how many years they have to work at it. You just never know (if they'll make it to the professional leagues). It takes a special person."
When Wilson arrived at Brunsdon's home, Altobelli already was there.
"I had an air mattress and a bed, and I told them they would have to flip a coin for it," she said. "Russell slept on the air mattress all summer because he was the rookie."
Altobelli said the story sums up who Wilson is as a person.
"He never complained or anything," said Altobelli, who is out of baseball and now works as an investment banker in Chicago. "I joke with my parents that who would've thought the guy I made sleep on the floor is an NFL quarterback?"
Host families for the Dust Devils don't get paid, unlike the Tri-City Americans' host families, who billet players for around nine months.
Instead, the Dust Devils have to rely on people who want to help young men in their teens and 20s transition into a new community at a challenging time of life.
"It is really out of the goodness of your heart," said Lynn Tegeler, the host family coordinator for the Dust Devils. "It is mainly people who love the sport or helping other people."
Tegeler has run the program since 2006 and has played host to more than 20 players since 2002.
"It is just a really great way to be a little more involved," she said. "The biggest reward was unexpected for me -- at the end of the first season I got a thank-you note from my player's parents.
"I didn't realize the impact we have on the real families. Helping the families feel comfortable that their boys are in a good place for two or three months."
Wilson's placement in Brunsdon's home was completely random, as Tegeler just tries to group players based on who has vehicles and whether they can carpool.
The fit with Wilson and Brunsdon was a good one, though.
"When he first got here, he was really quiet," Brunsdon said. "But once the guys warmed up to him, no one wanted him to leave. He is that contagious."