Player Spotlight: Russell Wilson

Story posted November 25, 2011 in CommRadio, Sports by Matt Lawrence

It has been years since Wisconsin has had a dynamic playmaker at the quarterback position. The traditional Badgers offense consisting of 340 pound linemen and big-bruising running backs has taken a backseat this season with the implementing of Russell Wilson at quarterback. With Wilson, Wisconsin has one of the most balanced offensive attacks in the country, averaging nearly 45 points per game.

Wilson’s collegiate career has taken many turns before landing in Madison. A two-time All-State selection in Virginia at the Collegiate School in Richmond, Virginia, Wilson received very little attention from Division I schools. His only scholarship offers were from Duke and North Carolina State. He ultimately signed with NC State where he was also permitted to play on the baseball team.

After redshirting in 2007, Wilson splashed onto the college football landscape in 2008 becoming the first freshman quarterback in ACC history to be named first team all-conference. Without officially being named the starting quarterback until week five, he still managed to lead the ACC in touchdowns, pass efficiency, and total offense. His 388 rushing yards were also the most by an NC State quarterback since 1981.

Entering his sophomore season as the clear starting quarterback, many questioned whether Wilson would be able to improve from a nearly flawless freshman campaign. Wilson ended up fourth in the country with 31 touchdown passes, which was also second in school history. He also set an NCAA record with 379 straight pass attempts without throwing an interception.

Wilson’s success continued his junior season when he led the ACC in passing yards as well as total offense. His 93 career total touchdowns were second most in ACC history and he was second to only former Wolfpack quarterback Phillip Rivers in nearly every career passing record at NC State. What many did not know is this would be Wilson’s last season as quarterback at NC State.

A fourth round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies in the 2010 Major League Baseball Draft, Wilson opted to play minor league baseball this spring instead of participating in spring football practice. He had planned to rejoin the Wolfpack for his senior season once fall practice began. Head coach Tom O’Brien had other plans. He relieved Wilson from his scholarship, leaving Wilson the option to transfer to any school in the country since he had already graduated from NC State.

After visiting Auburn and Wisconsin over the summer, Wilson decided on June 27 to attend Wisconsin. The Badgers were coming off a Rose Bowl appearance in 2010 but lost two-year starter Scott Tolzien and had no returning quarterback experience.

It didn’t take long for head coach Bret Bielema to realize that Wilson was going to offer a whole new dimension to the Badgers offense. Wisconsin played the opening game of the college football season on September 2nd, and with the rest of the college football world watching, Wilson threw for 255 yards and two scores along with rushing for 62 yards and another touchdown. The 317 yards of total offense was the most in a Badgers quarterback debut since 1951.

Wilson already holds single season school records for total touchdowns (32), passing touchdowns (26), pass efficiency (199.3), and completion percentage (.736). He has done all of this in only 11 games. Wisconsin still has one more regular season game, a bowl game, and a potential Big Ten championship game for Wilson to put those records out of reach.

At only 5-foot-eleven, and lacking an NFL-type arm, Wilson will likely get passed over by the NFL just like many college teams. But his athletic career will continue in baseball as a second baseman.

Wilson looks to finish off a stellar regular season this Saturday against Penn State, as the Badgers play host in what has become the Leaders Division championship game.

Matt Lawrence is a freshman majoring in Broadcast Journalism. To contact him, email