NC State baseball coach defends Russell Wilson, calls commencement speech 'spectacular'

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson drew criticism earlier this week for some of the NC State anecdotes he shared during his commencement address at the University of Wisconsin.

But Wilson's baseball coach at NC State, Elliott Avent, had no issues with Wilson's speech. He instead said he was proud of his former player and thought Wilson delivered a spectacular message.

In the speech, Wilson mentioned that he got 450 to 500 at-bats in his first two seasons at NC State, but the number was actually 143.

"I just think that’s nitpicky there," Avent said during an interview with 680 The Fan in Atlanta. "Let’s talk about what he was doing. He was giving a commencement speech to graduates of the University of Wisconsin, most of ‘em being 22 years of age. Russell’s probably only 27. And he’s trying to reach an audience with a message that I thought was spectacular. I listened to it, and I thought it was awesome. Basically, the guy that I admire as much as anybody that’s been at NC State was Jim Valvano. And Jim Valvano left a message of, ‘Don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.’

"Russell, I thought, had a similar speech. He was saying, ‘These are some times in my life when I got a no, and I wouldn’t take no for an answer if I thought I had the ability to do better.’ I thought it was a great speech. Did he get some things … I don’t know. He may have had 400 at-bats if you count, he went to a summer league, I think it was his sophomore year. He went to a summer league in Gastonia and got a lot of at-bats there."

In his speech, Wilson talked about how football coach Tom O'Brien told him that he wouldn't be the quarterback if he came back for his senior year. O'Brien didn't want Wilson playing baseball in the offseason, but Avent said that Wilson chose NC State because he thought he would get to play both sports without any issues.

"That wasn’t the understanding that I thought we had when Russell came," Avent said. "I don’t think that Russell would have come to NC State without the guarantee that he would be allowed to play baseball and football because they were both equal to him."

Avent said that he heard from Wilson after the speech.

"He sent me a text out of the blue that said, ‘Coach, you know I still love you, and I still love NC State,' " Avent said. "He said, ‘You’ve always been there for me.’ And the way I took that was, ‘In case you took anything wrong about that, you know that’s not how I meant it.’ So that’s just the kind of person he is.

"This guy did everything for NC State, I mean everything. He was the model of all models in college athletics. In today where it’s not all that way, you would think we would rise up and applaud people like this. I hate to hear that he’s taking a little bit of flak for some things he might have said that may or may not have been accurate. I think they’re immaterial."