Not being the kind of person to admit to any ration of doubt, even in retrospect, it is not surprising that Russell Wilson never thought his future relationship with N.C. State might be a little awkward after he left for Wisconsin two years ago.
It might be a little surprising, however, that the teammates he left behind thought the same thing.
“Not at all. I knew how Russell would handle the situation,” said J.R. Sweezy, Wilson’s teammate at N.C. State and, now, with the Seattle Seahawks. “It doesn’t surprise me at all. It’s good to see him back. I wish he would have been back our senior year.”
Wilson has made several trips back to Raleigh since playing his final year of eligibility at Wisconsin – the latest this week for two days of the Russell Wilson Passing Academy at N.C. State’s practice fields – and none of them has produced the slightest bit of awkwardness.
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If anything, Wilson is more at home here now than he was as a player, coming back as an N.C. State alumnus, equally comfortable with the old coaching staff and the new one. He even worked out Tuesday morning with the current Wolfpack team.
“I was never worried,” Wilson said. “I had great relationships with the people here, great friends that I built through my teammates. Great fans as well. Just to be around here again, I’m not too far from home, only 2 1/2 hours if that, it’s a good experience for me.”
His passing camps are spread among his various homes, original and adopted – Richmond; Raleigh; Madison, Wis.; Spokane, Wash.; and Seattle. He grew up in one, played college football in two, minor-league baseball near one and pro football in one.
“The whole situation that happened here, whatever,” Sweezy said. “He looks at it as, ‘That’s the past. I still played here, I still love it here, I’m still going to give back to the community here.’ ”
While it is not fair nor accurate to second-guess Tom O’Brien’s decision to go with two years of Mike Glennon over one year of Wilson back in the summer of 2011, there’s no question it didn’t work out all that well for N.C. State. The Wolfpack went 8-5 and 7-6 in Glennon’s two years as a starter, with O’Brien replaced by Dave Doeren last fall.
Meanwhile, it could hardly have worked out any better for Wilson. He led the Badgers to victory in the Big Ten championship game and a berth in the Rose Bowl, used that national exposure as a platform to bolster his draft status, went to the Seahawks in the third round and, to the shock of no one who watched him at N.C. State, won the starting job in Seattle.
“To graduate in three years, to be able to play football and baseball at N.C. State, to have the wonderful opportunity to play in an awesome conference in the Big Ten and play in the Rose Bowl, and meet great teammates up there, it’s changed my life for the better,” Wilson said. “It’s really helped me grow as an individual and just be around new people and I think that’s what’s helped me with the transition to the NFL. That, and playing pro baseball, but being able to meet new people and relate to guys and connect with them.”
He had to leave behind both baseball and N.C. State to do it. He may never play baseball again, but he’ll always have N.C. State. And N.C. State will always have him.