Wilson sticks to pigskin
Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 12, 2012
DENVER — Russell Wilson is putting away his glove to stay on the gridiron, where he’ll try to avoid hits rather than collect them.
The Wisconsin quarterback has told the Colorado Rockies he will play in the NFL rather than stay in the baseball team’s minor league system.
Wilson made up his mind after a sensational season in which he helped Wisconsin reach the Rose Bowl. A transfer from North Carolina State, Wilson became the first Badgers quarterback to throw for at least 3,000 yards in a season.
Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd said Thursday the team was informed Wilson won’t be coming to camp next month in Scottsdale, Ariz. He said the Rockies had “no say in his personal choice,” but the club wishes him the best as he pursues pro football.
Wilson was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round with the 140th pick two years ago. He received a $200,000 signing bonus and will have to give a portion of that back to the team.
His decision to put his baseball career on hold was first reported by The New York Times.
A second baseman, he hit .229 over two seasons with five homers and 26 RBIs in the Northwest and South Atlantic leagues. Given more time and even more at bats, Rockies executive Bill Schmidt believed Wilson could have had a solid career on the diamond.
“We thought his future would be better in baseball, if he chose to pursue it,” said Schmidt, who serves as the team’s vice president of scouting. “But we always knew that football was there. We would’ve liked to have seen him stick with it a little longer and seen where it would’ve taken him. But I fully understand where he’s coming from with football.”
The 5-foot-11, 210-pound Wilson went 19-17 in three seasons at North Carolina State, earning the ACC’s rookie of the year honor in 2008. Later, there was discord over his decision to skip spring practice in favor of baseball — at first for the Wolfpack, then for the Rockies’ farm team.
Using an NCAA rule, Russell was able to transfer to Wisconsin from N.C. State after graduating and became instantly eligible instead of waiting a year.
Wilson rewrote the Wisconsin record book in his only season in Madison, setting single-season school marks in yards passing (3,175), TD passes (33), completions (225), pass efficiency rating (191.8) and total offense (3,513).
The 23-year-old Wilson enters an NFL draft loaded with high-caliber quarterbacks. Andrew Luck of Stanford and Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor are likely to be the first two QBs off the board in April.
The Rockies retain the rights to Wilson for five more years. And Schmidt said the door remains open.
“If football doesn’t work out and he calls us, he can come back and play baseball,” Schmidt said. “He was a long ways away in baseball to really know what kind of player he had a chance to be. He had the tools. He had the athleticism. He had the tremendous work ethic. We thought that with time and effort, he had a chance.
“It was worth the gamble.”
The Associated Press