Russell Wilson

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Ex-Wolfpack lineman blisters Russell Wilson as “‘me’ player” in social media diatribe

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The war of words between those connected to the North Carolina State football program and Russell Wilson appears to be back on. Again.

Over the weekend, the current Seattle Seahawks quarterback gave a commencement speech at Wisconsin, the school to which he transferred after parting ways with NCSU. During the speech, Wilson spun a yarn about his former Wolfpack head coach, Tom O’Brien, dismissed any hopes he entertained for playing pro football.

“‘Listen son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League,'” Wilson, in his speech, said O’Brien told him during a conversation. “‘You’re too small. There’s no chance. You’ve got no shot. Give it up.'”

The tenor of Wilson’s commencement address didn’t sit well with at least one of his former teammates.

A senior during Wilson’s redshirt freshman season, Kalani Heppe acknowledged in a NSFW social media posting “how much I despise Tom O’Brien on a molecular level.” With that out of the way, Heppe proceeded to rip into Wilson, saying, among other things, the Pro Bowl quarterback “was a ‘me’ player” and “it was really hard for Russell to field punts and play safety when his head was firmly lodged up all the offensive coaches (sic) ass on a daily basis.

Below is Heppe’s missive, which, again, is NSFW, depending on your place of employment.

Welp, no gray area there.

As for Wilson, the Pro Bowler seemed to sense the spitstorm he kicked up with his commencement address as he took to Twitter to assuage any Wolfpack anguish. Or at least, he attempted to.

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.

Carson Wentz looks to follow in Joe Flacco’s FCS footsteps

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One of the hottest names buzzing in the NFL Draft conversations is North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. Though he typically tends to fly under the radar on the FCS level, North Dakota State’s string of four consecutive national championships has helped players like Wentz catch the eyes of the scouts. The scouts have most certainly taken notice of Wentz, who is widely considered to be one of, if not the, top quarterback prospect in the NFL Draft this spring. Wentz knows there is hope to make it at the next level, because other FCS quarterbacks have proven they can be franchise quarterbacks.

“I think the success of guys like Joe Flacco or Tony Romo or, . . . the list goes on whether it’s quarterbacks or other position players,” he said, according to Pro Football Talk. “There’s a lot of talented individuals at the FCS level that can play. Especially a guy like Flacco coming in really right away as a rookie and winning some ballgames I think shows that that adjustment can be made by special players for sure.”

Romo, of the Dallas Cowboys, played his college football at Eastern Illinois where he earned three All-Ohio Valley Conference honors and was three-time OVC Player of the Year and a 2002 Walter Payton Award winner. He went undrafted in the 2003 NFL Draft, but things seem to have worked out well for him with the Cowboys. Flacco took a slightly different path to the Baltimore Ravens. Flacco started out at the FBS level at Pittsburgh but transferred to FCS Delaware after serving as a backup to Tyler Palko with the Panthers. Flacco set 20 records for the Blue Hens and guided Delaware to the national championship game in 2007, where Delaware fell to the same Appalachian State team that famously upset Michigan in Ann Arbor. Wentz has drawn plenty of comparisons to Flacco given his stature and arm strength.

Wentz isn’t the only former FCS star quarterback looking to make it at the next level, of course. Oregon’s Vernon Adams spent one season with the Ducks after a highly successful run at Eastern Washington. Unlike Wentz though, Adams appears to be fighting just to be drafted by an NFL team due to his lack of size (of course, Russell Wilson isn’t exactly a big guy, and he’s fared well).