RENTON — Russell Wilson insists he doesn’t hold a grudge.
But that doesn’t mean the Seahawks quarterback has forgotten that his former college coach told him he wouldn’t get to finish his college career at N.C. State.
“That was April 27th,” Wilson said, quickly throwing out the answer when asked if he remembered when he and Tom O’Brien, then the head coach at N.C. State, discussed the quarterback’s future, or lack thereof, with the Wolfpack.
When the Seahawks play host to Tampa Bay on Sunday, both offenses will be quarterbacked by players who not long ago were teammates at N.C. State. And while Buccaneers rookie Mike Glennon was not directly involved in Wilson leaving Raleigh, N.C., he was very much a part of O’Brien’s decision.
Glennon had been Wilson’s backup the previous two seasons, and with Glennon looking like a viable starting option, and with Wilson still juggling a minor league baseball career as well as college football, O’Brien decided he wanted a quarterback focused only on football. And since Wilson wasn’t yet willing to give up on his baseball dreams, he and O’Brien were at an impasse. Then on April 27, Wilson found out his N.C. State career was ending with a year of eligibility remaining.
And that’s how Wilson ended up at the University of Wisconsin for his senior year. He led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and helped prove to NFL scouts that, despite his lack of height, he just might be an NFL quarterback. And it’s also how Glennon got an extra year of experience as N.C. State’s starter, which contributed to him developing into a third-round pick in this year’s draft.
“I obviously wanted to go back there, when I was told I couldn’t, it was one of those things that I just had to move on and find a way to make something work,” Wilson said. “… It was a blessing in disguise for me. It was one of those things that I was fortunate enough to transfer to the University of Wisconsin and play right away. It was a blessing for me because I didn’t want to give up football yet.”
It’s a good thing Wilson didn’t want to give up on football despite pursuing a baseball career at the same time. In the end, he realized that his passion, and in all reality, more of his talent, was in football, and that year at Wisconsin put things in motion for him to become one of the NFL’s biggest surprises in 2012.
One of the many things that the Seahawks loved about Wilson before the draft was the way he was so quickly able to learn a new offense, win over a locker room and become a dominant force in college football — doing all that in a span of a few months. Playing behind Wisconsin’s behemoth offensive line also helped ease some of the concerns about his height.
O’Brien, who was fired by N.C. State following the 2012 Season, said he’s never had second thoughts about the decision to move on from Wilson.
“No, never,” O’Brien said on a conference call from Charlottesville, where he is currently the tight ends coach/associate head coach for offense at the University of Virginia.
“It was a decision that was best for the football team at that time. Russell had decided to go play baseball. We didn’t know what the outcome of that was going to be, and certainly Mike Glennon was there and ready to play quarterback for us, so I don’t regret that at all and it’s worked out best for both of them.”
Glennon concurred that the situation was beneficial for all parties involved, even if it was rather unusual.
“It was definitely a unique situation,” Glennon said on a conference call. “A player of his caliber. … He was a great teammate, but it worked for both of us. He went on and had a great year at Wisconsin, led them to the Rose Bowl, then obviously did what he did as (an NFL) rookie and is doing right now. Then for me, it gave me an opportunity to start for two years at N.C. State and put myself in a position to get drafted.
“We’ve been nothing but supportive of one another throughout all of that. We stay in touch with one another, and I was excited for him, happy for all his accomplishments, and I think he feels the same way about me.”
When Wilson went on to so much success at Wisconsin, O’Brien said his feelings weren’t of regret, but rather, “it was more of a case where we were rooting for him to have success, and at that point somewhere he made the decision that he no longer wanted to pursue the baseball career and (wanted to) pursue football, and that was his chance to get to the NFL. That’s what he wanted to do and so we supported him and were glad that he had the success that he did.”
It’s easy in retrospect to say O’Brien was crazy to make the decision he did. Wilson had started since winning the job as a redshirt freshman, had led the Wolfpack to a nine-win season in 2010, and has since gone on to become one of the NFL’s best young quarterbacks.
Glennon was no slouch at N.C. State, and he is now also an NFL starter, but he also isn’t making anyone forget the name Russell Wilson at the collegiate or NFL levels. Still, O’Brien maintains that, with what he knew then, he was doing what was best for the program, which is why he isn’t bothered by how he is portrayed for his part in this strange saga, which continues Sunday with the two quarterback facing off in Seattle on an NFL field.
“I don’t worry about those things,” O’Brien said. “You make decisions on the facts you have at that time. When you make the decisions, you can’t go back and say ‘Oh I know this now’ and second guess yourself.”
And along those lines, Wilson understands why he was sent packing before finishing his career at N.C. State. He may not have loved the decision at the time, but he isn’t bitter about it either.
“I didn’t think that he would tell me not to come back,” Wilson said. “It was just one of those situations. I respect his decision, whatever. It’s just one of those things that … it allowed me to potentially play in the National Football League.”
No, Wilson doesn’t hold a grudge. Then again, he hasn’t forgotten April 27, either.
Still no Harvin
When asked about Percy Harvin on Wednesday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll did not say anything definitive about the receiver, though his answer did hint at Harvin sitting out another week. A day later, Carroll was much more direct in an interview with Serius XM, saying Harvin won’t play Sunday against Tampa Bay. Carroll told the radio station “Percy … (is) getting close, but not close enough.” Carroll does not talk to the local media on Thursdays, so any further word on Harvin will have to wait until today.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.