Russell Wilson provided some insight about his college transfer from North Carolina State to Wisconsin over the weekend, casting former Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien as a doubter who told Wilson he would not play if he returned for his senior season.
Wilson's comments came during a commencement address he gave to students graduating from UW as he encouraged them to overcome obstacles in life.
"The summer before my senior year of college, I'm playing minor-league baseball. I called my football coach at N.C. State and said, 'Hey coach, I'd like to come back for my senior year.' He told me I wasn't coming back," Wilson said. "He said, 'Listen son, you're never going to play in the National Football League. You're too small. There's no chance. You've got no shot. Give it up.' Of course, I'm on this side of the phone saying, 'So you're telling me I'm not coming back to N.C. State? I won't see the field?' He said, 'No son, you won't see the field.'"
He certainly saw the field for the Badgers, lighting up the Big Ten in 2011 for 33 touchdown passes and just four interceptions in leading Wisconsin to a conference title. Wilson, of course, was a third-round pick of the Seahawks in 2012 who became a Day 1 starter. He quickly proved O'Brien and any other doubters wrong, as he's already a Super Bowl champion and three-time Pro Bowler.
But O'Brien's decision wasn't just about football.
O'Brien wanted Wilson to stop playing professional baseball and concentrate exclusively on football. According to the Charlotte Observer, O'Brien settled on Mike Glennon as the Wolfpack's 2011 starter in the spring of that year while Wilson was playing baseball. Wilson had been drafted by the Colorado Rockies the previous year.
Recounting examples of overcoming obstacles is a routine element of commencement speeches -- Wilson was also self-deprecating during his speech -- so it's of little surprise that Wilson reached back for a North Carolina State story. With his audience being adoring Wisconsin students, and with O'Brien now retired, it was too easy.
Nevertheless, Wilson appeared to try and soften the sting via social media a day after his speech: