The Wolfpacker

July 2013 Football Preview

The Wolfpacker: An Independent Magazine Covering NC State Sports

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■ pack perspective Russell Wilson Imparts Life Lessons To Young Football Campers By Tim Peeler ussell Wilson played two sports in college: football and baseball. He played football at two colleges, NC State and Wisconsin, taking both to postseason bowl games. He not only played professional baseball for a summer, he's now a starting quarterback in the National Football League for the Seattle Seahawks. How lucky can one guy be? The answer is, not at all. Wilson himself almost made the mistake of calling himself lucky not long ago, when he returned to NC State's Dail Football Practice Facility to conduct the Russell Wilson Passing Academy. But what he meant to say was "blessed." "I've worked too hard to be 'lucky,'" Wilson said. "I should say I am 'blessed' to be a starting quarterback in the NFL, to be one of 32 in the world at my job. That's something you should cherish and take one day at a time." For some, Wilson's return to campus might have seemed awkward. The former first-team All-ACC quarterback spent four years at NC State, earned his degree and played three seasons of football. But he left after earning his degree in communications to play his final season at Wisconsin, mainly because former head coach Tom O'Brien would not guarantee Wilson a starting job for his senior season. Instead of going head to head with another future NFL quarterback, Mike Glennon, Wilson went to Madison, Wis., and in his only season led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. Wilson bears no ill will about the situation. "I graduated from NC State," Wilson said. "I love NC State. I am proud of my degree. It's a great school with great people. I also loved Wisconsin for the time that I was there. Both schools are really special. They both have great alumni. "For me, it was all about the experiences I had at both places. I was able to play football and baseball at NC State. I loved watching the baseball team go to the College World Series. It was also an awesome opportunity to play in a tremendous conference like the Big Ten and to go to the Rose Bowl. All of it has changed my life for the better and has helped me grow as an individual." Wilson roamed NC State's three practice fields with authority, like he'd never left home. He was comfortable being surrounded by former teammates and players R Wilson described Wolfpack head coach Dave Doeren and his staff as "young, ambitious, with a lot of drive" — words that apply to the Seattle quarterback, as well. photo courtesy nc state media relations from Elon that he asked to be camp counselors. He was happy to leave the field in Tobais Palmer's beat-up Honda as they headed out for breakfast in between his private early workout and the mid-morning start of camp for the young players. He was excited to see new NC State head coach Dave Doeren again. The two met when Wisconsin played Northern Illinois at Soldier Field during Wilson's 2011 season with the Badgers. Wilson believes that Doeren offers an energy to the program that will bring success to Carter-Finley Stadium. "Coach D is an awesome coach," Wilson said. "There is a great vibe from him and the whole staff. They are young, ambitious, with a lot of drive. You can really feel it." Those are the qualities that Wilson has been trying to impart to more than 1,600 youngsters this summer with his second annual series of football camps. Along with partner American Family Insurance, Wilson held his two-day clinics in his hometown of Richmond, Va., Raleigh, Madison and both Spokane and Seattle in Washington state. Wilson was careful to craft his camp to include more than just football. He has each of his campers write down both their athletic and life dreams. He sets goals for them along the way to help achieve those ambitions. And he makes sure to include his. As with everything Wilson does, they are big. He wants to own his own company one day. He wants to be an ESPN analyst long into the future. Having just completed his rookie season in the NFL, during which he led the Seahawks to the divisional round of the NFC playoffs, his most immediate goals are still on the football field. "I want to be the greatest quarterback to ever play the game," Wilson said. "I have a long way to go to get there. But all you have to do is work hard, stay in the moment and enjoy the experience for what it is." Someone asked the budding star — who went further in the playoffs than everyone's NFL Rookie of the Year, Robert Griffin III — how much better he could be. It was the perfect opportunity for false modesty, but Wilson didn't take the bait. "How much better can I be? Who knows," he said. "I'll find out by how hard I work. You continue to visualize success. You continue to believe and work at it. Those are things you have to do to be successful. I will do whatever it takes." Except for maybe a few water-related activities in which his wife, Ashton, excels more than he does, Wilson has never failed to realize a dream. Some people said he was too small to play college football, let alone in the NFL. Some people said it was impractical to play both football and baseball in college, let alone professionally. Some people said that even though Seattle drafted Wilson, he would never really be a viable option as a starting quarterback. Wrong, wrong and wrong. Wilson is just one of those rare driven people who is supremely focused and willing to make whatever sacrifices he needs to in order to achieve his dreams. The young players at his five camps couldn't have a better role model. ■ You may contact Tim Peeler at 160  ■  the wolfpacker 160.Pack Perspective.indd 160 7/1/13 10:38 AM

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