College Football: Don't blame Wilson for fleeing to Wisconsin

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 3, 2011

By Caulton Tudor
Raleigh News and Observer
MADISON, Wisc. — Wisconsin didn’t just get a quarterback on Monday. With Russell Wilson, the Badgers got a Heisman Trophy candidate.
N.C. State, on the other hand, got what coach Tom O’Brien, many Wolfpack fans and Wilson’s former teammates could sense from the moment he was granted a scholarship release in early May — a potentially frustrating chance to see Wilson play quarterback for a different team.
In parts of two minor league baseball seasons, it was apparent Wilson didn’t have major league potential. He may yet take another stab at the sport, but Wilson will turn 23 in November and doesn’t yet have a feel for the strike zone.
That Wilson would return to football was a near certainty from the time his batting average seemed to get stuck in the .225 range with the Class A Asheville Tourists.
Just as quickly, O’Brien was trapped in the equivalent of a baseball run-down.
If the coach had saved the quarterback job for Wilson, there’s a chance red-shirt junior Mike Glennon, having graduated in May, could have used the same immediate-eligibility option as a graduate student that Wilson used to transfer.
Some Wolfpack fans may resent Wilson’s decision, and that’s marginally understandable.
Wilson made himself the face of N.C. State football and emerged against long odds to become one of the best quarterbacks in ACC history. He rivaled former Pack star Philip Rivers in terms of sheer popularity.
No one, however, should blame Wilson for taking advantage of the transfer rules and for wanting to keep his football career alive.
At barely 6 feet tall (if that), Wilson has only a slim chance of getting a decent shot at playing in the NFL regardless of what he accomplishes at Wisconsin.
But Wilson has been overcoming the size issue in football most of his life. He’s not going to give up on the NFL dream until every door has been closed.
The upshot of the development will be a world of pressure on almost everyone directly involved.
There’ll be pressure on Wilson to excel at Wisconsin in a new offense against unfamiliar defenses.
There’ll be pressure on Glennon to succeed in his first real season as a college player. Working behind Wilson and on a team that played a lot of tight games, Glennon hasn’t seen enough true game action to judge his abilities.
And there’ll be pressure on O’Brien. If Glennon struggles or is hurt, a certain amount of second-guessing will be inescapable.
But in the final analysis, everyone did what he thought was best under the circumstances.
O’Brien is getting paid to oversee a program, meaning he had to pay at least some attention to the quarterback picture for 2012.
Wilson wanted to keep playing at N.C. State, but not as much as he wanted to keep playing football period.
Given a career mulligan, perhaps Wilson would have put an end to his baseball career a year ago. But you can’t blame a guy for cashing in on a $250,000 contract offer, either.
There are ramifications galore for all parties, but there’s no reason to assign fault to anyone.