Tudor: Russell Wilson turns Seahawks vs. Cards into ‘spotlight’ game

In-state schools put 72 players on NFL rosters

caulton.tudor@newsobserver.comSeptember 9, 2012 

There’s an outside chance that Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s first pass in an NFL regular-season game Sunday will be on a route intended to victimize Arizona Cardinal safety Adrian Wilson.

Wilson and Wilson are two of some 20 former N.C. State players to survive preseason NFL cuts.

Some 70 other players from in-state schools are on the NFL’s 32 rosters but none will be watched as closely on a national scale as Russell Wilson in his pro debut.

“It’s turned out to be a spotlight game,” Cardinal defensive lineman Calais Campbell told reporters in Arizona this week.

Campbell, one of 45 former Miami Hurricanes on NFL rosters this season, stands 6-feet-8 and weighs about 300 pounds.

Russell Wilson is listed by the Seahawks at 5-11 and 206. A third-round draft pick after spending the 2011 college season at Wisconsin, Wilson stunned talent pundits by taking the starting job away from veteran Matt Flynn in preseason.

In the 4:25 p.m. game at Arizona on Sunday, the Seahawks will go off a 2-point favorite even though the Cardinals went 5-2 last season when quarterback John Skelton started games.

Campbell is among those skeptical of Wilson’s ability to extend his exhibition season success.

“Preseason’s a whole different ballgame,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be a little bit more intense, a little more different. I think it will help us out a lot, him being young and stuff, but he is definitely an athlete so we have to be careful of him running the ball.”

Wilson told reporters in Seattle during the week that he expects the most difficult athletic challenge of his life.

“I know I’ll make some mistakes,” he said. “But I think overall, I’m ready to help this team win games. Winning games is what I’m concerned about – not completing every pass.”

Wilson is one of five former ACC quarterbacks expected to start today. He joins fellow State alum Philip Rivers of San Diego, Boston College’s Matt Ryan of Atlanta, Florida State’s Christian Ponder of Minnesota and Virginia’s Matt Schaub of Houston.

The Falcons’ Ryan will be backed up by rookie Dominique Davis of East Carolina. Behind Schaub for the Texans will be T.J. Yates of UNC. Ex-Duke star Thad Lewis made the final cut at Cleveland but is third on the depth chart behind rookie Brandon Weeden (Oklahoma State) and Colt McCoy (Texas).

•  In that Arizona vs. Seattle game, former UNC defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday will begin his 15th pro season, making him one of the oldest players in the NFL.

Holliday was a first-round draft pick by Green Bay in 1998 and later spent seasons at Kansas City, Miami, Denver and Washington.

Amazingly durable, the 6-5, 290-pounder will play in his 198th career game today.

•  One of Holliday’s teammates at UNC in the late ‘90s was center Jeff Saturday, who makes his first start today at Green Bay after spending the past 13 seasons at Indianapolis.

The combination of Saturday snapping to Peyton Manning was a Colts institution. But Manning will start today for Denver against Pittsburgh and Saturday will be hiking balls to Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers against San Francisco.

•  In addition to the North Carolina-based colleges, here’s the list of other ACC-based players in the NFL:

Boston College 18, Clemson 19, Florida State 24, Georgia Tech 19, Maryland 22, Miami 45, Virginia Tech 22, Virginia 20.

•  One of Russell Wilson’s primary blockers today will be another Wolfpack product – rookie J.R. Sweezy at right guard.

At State, Sweezy was a career defensive lineman and was picked in the seventh round but was switched to offense almost immediately in off-season workouts. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll says Sweezy has All-Pro potential.

Tudor: 919-829-8946

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