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Russell Wilson, giving Wisconsin commencement speech: Tom O’Brien said ‘you’re never going to play in NFL’

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Seemingly against long odds, Russell Wilson has turned himself into a Pro Bowl-level quarterback in the NFL.  What he still has an issue with, it seems, is his exit from North Carolina State.

Wilson was a two-sport athlete for the Wolfpack, playing football and baseball at NCSU.  With Mike Glennon on the roster, his football coach, Tom O’Brien, wanted a commitment to the sport from his All-ACC quarterback; Wilson, a MLB draft pick as well, couldn’t give that, leaving NCSU for Wisconsin for his final season of eligibility.

That was the spring and summer of 2011; fastforward to May of 2016, and Wilson gave the commencement address at UW.  And Wilson added to his version of the narrative by stretching it to the point of breaking.

The summer before my senior year of college, I’m playing minor-league baseball. I called my football coach at NC State and said, ‘Hey coach, I’d like to come back for my senior year.’ He told me I wasn’t coming back. He said, ‘Listen son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League. You’re too small. There’s no chance. You’ve got no shot. Give it up.’ Of course, I’m on this side of the phone saying, ‘So you’re telling me I’m not coming back to NC State? I won’t see the field?’ He said, ‘No son, you won’t see the field.’ Now this was everything I had worked for. And now it was completely gone. If I wanted to follow my dream I had to leave NC State. I had no idea if I would get a second chance somewhere else.

(Wilson’s speech begins at around the 1:04:45 mark)

I’m far from an O’Brien apologist, but by all accounts it was commitment, not talent, that ultimately pushed Wilson to leave Raleigh for Madison.  But, whatever narrative helps Wilson sleep at night or gives him quality fodder for a speech — a narrative, incidentally, that was decidedly positive when Wilson had his jersey number honored by NCSU a couple of years ago.

“This is truly an amazing honor and I am looking forward to being back in Raleigh and Carter-Finley Stadium,” Wilson said in a statement March 25, 2014. “My experience at NC State was an amazing one playing football and baseball but also accomplishing my goal of graduating in three years. My memories of playing as the quarterback for the Wolfpack are never-ending and the roar of the Wolfpack Nation still rings in my ear from memorable wins against FSU and UNC!

“I learned the value of great leadership, ultimate sacrifice, and the relentless belief that hard work pays off. I am grateful for all of my amazing teammates and players past, present, and future. I can still taste and sense the blood, sweat, and tears we all sacrificed to be successful.”

In the end, ironically, Wilson did exactly what O’Brien wanted: he focused solely on football.  That focus, though, only came after Wilson’s less-than-amicable divorce from the Wolfpack — a divorce that Wilson, still, can’t realistically come to terms with.

Dick MacPherson’s grandson one of six added to Sean Lewis’ first Kent State staff

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Sean Lewis‘ first staff at Kent State will come armed with a famous coaching surname.

The football program announced Monday that Lewis has hired a total of six new assistants. One of the coaching sextet is Mackey MacPherson, the grandson of former Syracuse head coach Dick MacPherson.

The younger MacPherson will coach the Golden Flashes running backs after spending the past two seasons as an offensive graduate assistant with the Orange.  Both Lewis and MacPherson were on Dino Babers‘ staff at the ‘Cuse.

The other full-time assistant hired by Lewis are as follows:

Zac Barton — special teams coordinator
Brian Cochran — defensive line
Jon Cooley — safeties coach
Matt Middleton — wide receivers coach
Bill O’Boyle — offensive line

Nearly two weeks ago, Lewis announced the hiring of his coordinators on both sides of the ball.

Western Kentucky’s Joel Iyiegbuniwe declares early for draft

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There’s a new leader in the clubhouse for “Early Entrant With the Most Vowels in his Surname.”

On his personal Twitter account over the weekend, Joel Iyiegbuniwe announced that he is leaving Western Kentucky early and making himself available for the April NFL draft. The linebacker, a native of Bowling Green, Kent., stated that he came to his decision “[a]fter much thought, prayer and discussion with my family, coaches and advisors.”

This past season, Iyiegbuniwe led the Hilltoppers in tackles with 117, tackles for loss with 11.5 and forced fumbles with three. He was named first-team All-Conference USA following the regular season.

Including last season, Iyiegbuniwe had started 27 straight games at outside linebacker for the Hilltoppers.

Today is the deadline for draft-eligible players to inform the NFL of their intentions.

Kent State announces signing of ex-Auburn QB Woody Barrett

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One day after Woody Barrett announced that he has found a new college football home, the school has confirmed as much.

Kent State sent out a press release Monday evening acknowledging that Barrett has signed with the football program. After spending the 2017 season at a Mississippi junior college, the quarterback will be eligible to play immediately in 2018.

Counting this coming season, Barrett will have three years of eligibility remaining.

“We’re excited about Woody’s potential, his ability and his raw tools both throwing and running the football,” new Golden Flashes head coach Sean Lewis said in a statement. “And we’re excited to have him on campus to be training with our team as we get ready for spring ball.”

A four-star member of Auburn’s 2016 recruiting class, Barrett was rated as the No. 6 dual-threat quarterback in the country that cycle. He took a redshirt as a true freshman, then opted to transfer from the Tigers in May of last year, ultimately ending up at the JUCO level.

At Copiah-Lincoln Community College this past season, Barrett passed for 1,294 yards and eight touchdowns in nine games, adding another 485 and six on the ground.

Michigan confirms hiring of Sherrone Moore as TEs coach

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One hole on Jim Harbaugh‘s coaching staff has been filled.

The football program confirmed Monday that Sherrone Moore has been hired and will serve as Harbaugh’s tight ends coach. Moore will replace Greg Frey, who moved on to a job on Willie Taggart‘s staff at Florida State.

The 31-year-old Moore — he’ll turn 32 in early February — spent the past four seasons coaching tight ends at Central Michigan. This past season, he added the title of assistant head coach as well as taking over as the MAC program’s recruiting coordinator.

Moore began his coaching career as an offensive graduate assistant at Louisville from 2009-12. He was promoted to tight ends coach in 2012, spending that season as well as 2013 in that role.