Wilson changed Glennon's path

RENTON, Wash. -- Russell Wilson never will forget the day he was told he no longer was wanted at NC State.

“It was April 27th [2011],” Wilson said.

Tom O'Brien, NC State's head coach at the time, had a meeting that day with Wilson and gave him the surprising news.

Wilson had been the Wolfpack's starting quarterback for three seasons. But Wilson also was playing minor-league baseball, a situation with which O'Brien had issues.

“But I didn't think he would tell me not to come back,'' Wilson said. “North Carolina State was an awesome experience for me. I graduated in three years and went to grad school. I wanted to finish my senior year [of football] there.

“I tried to do everything right. I love NC State. It was just one of those things. Coach O'Brien wanted to move on. So I had to move on, too.”

Now, 2 1/2 years later, Wilson will play Sunday against the man who replaced as NC State, rookie Tampa Bay quarterback Mike Glennon.

“It was definitely a unique situation for a player of his caliber,” Glennon said of Wilson's departure. “He was a great teammate, but it worked out for both of us. He went on to have a great year at Wisconsin and led them to the Rose Bowl.

“For me, it gave me an opportunity to start for two years at NC State and put me in a situation to get drafted. We've been nothing but supportive of one another through all that. We stay in touch with one another. I was happy for him and all his accomplishments and I think he feels the same way about me.”

Wilson has nothing but good things to say about Glennon.

“We were roommates, both doing our best to learn all we could,” Wilson said. “I have so much respect for Mike. He is very consistent in his approach. He knows how to study and how to learn. He has a great arm and doesn't make many mistakes. He's very poised.

“And he's a lot taller than me [6-6 to 5-11]. He's like a giraffe compared to me. But Mike has worked extremely hard to get where he is now. It'll be fun to play against him.”

The situation at NC State was awkward for both men at the time. O'Brien felt Wilson's baseball commitment, causing Wilson to miss spring practice, would hinder the football team.

“Russell and I had very open conversations about his responsibilities, respective to baseball and football,” O'Brien said at the time. “While I am certainly respectful of Russell's dedication to baseball these last several years, within those discussions, I also communicated to him the importance of his time commitment to NC State football."

O'Brien is no longer at NC State. He was fired after the 2012 season. He now is the associate head coach and tight ends coach at Virginia.

“I don't carry a grudge,'' Wilson said. “I ended up in the right place at the right time.”

But it was a life-changing moment for Wilson. A lot was going on in his life at the time, including the death of his father, the man who had guided all his decisions. Now Wilson had to make the biggest decision of his life without his father's help.

“I still wanted to explore my dream of playing football,'' Wilson said. “I prayed a lot and talked to my brother and my mom. I just went with my instincts.”

Wilson said he had offers from schools across the country, but his instincts almost led him to Auburn

“I took a visit to Auburn,” Wilson said. “I liked it, but I went up to Wisconsin and fell in love with it. I knew that was the right situation for me. Auburn had just had Cam Newton [the 2010 Heisman Trophy winner], a 6-5 quarterback. They spread it out and did a lot of trick stuff.

“I came from a West Coast, pro-style offense. I wanted to continue to learn what I could. I knew as a 5-11 quarterback, I was going to have to continue to prove myself in a pro-style offense [which Wisconsin used]. I had to put myself in the right position.”

Wilson had a remarkable senior season for the Badgers, throwing 33 touchdown passes and running for six others. He led Wisconsin to a Rose Bowl appearance against Oregon, which the Badgers lost 45-38. But Wilson had a superb performance, completing 19 of 25 passes for 296 yards and two touchdown throws, along with running for another TD.

“I'm so blessed to have gone to Wisconsin," Wilson said. “It's a great school and great coaching staff with incredible fans. I had a lot of great teammates that wanted to be successful. I played behind a huge offensive line. I think that proved a lot too, as a 5-11 quarterback showing I could play under center with those guys in front of me.”

And Glennon became a star after playing behind Wilson for two seasons. Glennon threw for 7,085 yards and 62 TDs in his final two years for the Wolfpack.

Like Wilson, he was a third-round draft choice. And like Wilson, he became an NFL starter as a rookie.

“We spent a lot of time together in college,” Glennon said of Wilson. “I don't know if I could pinpoint one story about him, but he's such a great guy. He does everything the right way.”

Who knows what would have happened for Wilson and Glennon if O'Brien had allowed Wilson to return for his senior year at NC State.

“In the end, maybe it's what allowed me to play in the NFL,” Wilson said. “I was a free agent in a way. I was able to go to another school and continue my education [in graduate school] which was really important to me.”

Wilson looks back on it now believing everything happens for a reason.

“God had a different plan for me,” Wilson said. “It all worked out for me and for Mike.”

Wilson moved on and Glennon got his chance. Sunday they will be on opposite sidelines as NFL starting quarterbacks, at least in part, because of a day 2 1/2 years ago that changed both their lives.