Mike Glennon gets it.
You want to compare him to Russell Wilson, that's fine. N.C. State's new quarterback understands it's unavoidable, given the success Wilson enjoyed with the Wolfpack and the way he left program, landing at a Top-10 program in Wisconsin after a public split with coach Tom O'Brien.
Just don't expect Glennon to get caught up in any of the hype or in comparisons to Wilson.
"Mike's really smart," Wolfpack senior tight end George Bryan said. "He knows that fans are going to compare them, but he hasn't worried about that. He has just gone about being Mike and doing what he needs to do to lead this team."
Glennon had an amicable relationship with Wilson, but the two have talked only once since Wilson left. He admits he'll follow Wilson's progress with the Badgers.
"Of course, I'll look to see how he does," said Glennon, a fourth-year junior. "But, really, it's about what I can control."
And for the first time since he signed as a prep All-American out of a Northern Virginia suburb three and a half years ago, Glennon controls N.C. State's offense, and, to a certain extent, the program's fate in O'Brien's fifth season.
With 14 starters back from a team that won nine games and finished ranked in the Top 25 for the first time in eight years, the Wolfpack is poised to build on last season's momentum.
Glennon's inexperience, not his talent, is the team's biggest question mark.
"I think a lot of people are excited about watching him play on Saturday," O'Brien said. "We expect him to get better each and every week as we go along for the next couple of years here."
Waiting his turn
How Glennon became the starter is already a well-tread narrative, but it's worth repeating.
O'Brien wanted Wilson, a three-year starter who had juggled both football and baseball at N.C. State, to participate in spring practice.
Wilson, who was drafted by the Colorado Rockies the year before and had skipped spring practice in 2010, wanted to play baseball.
With a new group of receivers to break in, O'Brien said that being the quarterback was a "24/7" job and that Wilson needed to be in camp. Wilson, who received a reported bonus of $250,000 from the Rockies, went to play for the Asheville Tourists instead.
O'Brien released Wilson from his scholarship at the end of April, and Wilson decided two months later to transfer to Wisconsin for his final college season. As a college graduate, he took advantage of an NCAA rule which allows him to play right away.
Glennon, meanwhile, went through practice for the second straight spring as the No. 1 quarterback. He also finished up an undergraduate degree in finance in May, which would have allowed him to transfer for his final two college seasons.
Glennon said he didn't graduate early to put pressure on O'Brien to make him the starter.
"It has always been my plan to start here and finish here," Glennon said. "I've always wanted to be at N.C. State."
Glennon also said that while he was ranked among the five best prep quarterbacks in the country by ESPN, Rivals and Scout, O'Brien never promised him a starting job during his recruitment.
"It was always, 'The best man will play,' and I don't think he's ever changed that," Glennon said. "His word is his word, that's who he is."
Statistically, there is no basis for comparison between Glennon and Wilson in college.
At N.C. State, Wilson passed for 8,545 yards (third on the school's career list) and 76 touchdowns (second) with 36 career starts and a 19-17 record.
Glennon has thrown for 326 yards and one touchdown in 10 games without a start, mostly in mop-up duty.
Wilson didn't just lead the ACC in passing yards (3,563) and touchdowns (28) last year; he also accounted for 4,002 of N.C. State's 5,258 yards - the highest percentage of any FBS player (76.1 percent).
There is one comparison to be made, though. While they are as physically different as two athletes in the same position can be - Wilson is 5-feet-10 and Glennon is 6-7 (he has grown an inch, he says, in college) - they share a common trait: Confidence.
There's no doubting that Wilson's popularity, both inside and outside the program, was predicated on his ability to make big plays. In short, Wilson was a gamer.
Go back to State's dramatic 29-25 win at North Carolina last season. Down nine points, with time running out in the third quarter, Wilson converted a third-and-19 near midfield by outrunning UNC's defense, and notably planting linebacker Zach Brown with a stiff-arm, to pick up a first down.
He topped that incredible scramble with a near-miraculous 2-yard touchdown pass to Owen Spencer, which will be remembered as long as N.C. State and North Carolina play. But it was Wilson's 20-yard sprint to elude UNC star defensive end Quinton Coples that made the wild scramble for the tipped ball possible.
Glennon is the first to admit he won't make too many plays with his feet, although he did run a sub-4.9 in the 40. But Glennon's high-school coach said the quarterback can deliver big plays in big moments.
Tom Verbanic flashes back to Glennon's senior season at Westfield High in Chantilly, Va. Glennon's team, unbeaten in the first 13 games, found itself losing 21-17 in the state semifinals to Oscar Smith High, a team led by Alabama's current quarterback, Phillip Sims.
"It was fourth-and-4 near midfield and there was no question about which play I wanted to run," Verbanic said. "I didn't want the ball in anyone else's hands."
Verbanic gave Glennon a choice: hit the outside receiver deep or the inside receiver on a slant.
"He read the safety and threw the slant inside," Verbanic said. "We picked up seven yards and then went on to score a touchdown - another one of his passes - to win the game."
Led by Glennon, the only future Division I player on the roster, Westfield went on to beat Woodbridge 42-14 in the Class AAA final, to cap a perfect 15-0 season in 2007.
That's the last time Glennon started a football game.
"I know he's dying to get on the field for them," Verbanic said. "He's very much a competitor."
Glennon threw for 32 touchdowns and for more than 2,500 yards as a senior. He was the AP and Gatorade prep player of the year in Virginia. He was named an All-American by Parade and Under Armour.
But in a 30-minute interview earlier this week, Glennon didn't mention his individual accolades. He does remember his won-loss record as the Westfield starter: 29-1.
Glennon believes in one of O'Brien's main tenets: "Don't talk about it. Be about it."
So when he answers the question that every Wolfpack fan wants to ask - how will you fill Wilson's shoes? - he does so without an attempt to win the sound bite.
"I've worked really hard, and I think my hard work will show on the field," Glennon said. "That's the best way I can put it."
As far as bold declarations go, that's it from the unassuming Glennon, who after three years of waiting, is ready to make his own mark.
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