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Avent: Letting Wilson go a bad decision for NC State

Posted January 23
Updated January 24

— Before Russell Wilson was a Seattle Seahawks quarterback, before he attended the University of Wisconsin, before he was a player with the Colorado Rockies organization, and even before he was a signal caller for North Carolina State University, he was a baseball prospect as a top-level shortstop.

“I was in Salem, Va., watching a game on a bad field – the best players in the state of Virginia,” said N.C. State head baseball coach Elliott Avent. “I liked this shortstop, very raw, but I liked him. In fact, I kind of said, ‘That shortstop is pretty good.’ I knew some farmer would come over and say, ‘Hey coach, if you like him in baseball, you should see him throw a football. He's the best quarterback the state of Virginia has ever had.’”

Avent immediately called then-Wolfpack head football coach Chuck Amato.

“I said, ‘Hey Chuck, what do you know about Russell Wilson?' (He said) 'I'll call you right back.’” Avent recalled. “He called back and said everybody likes him, but he's a little short. I'm like, ‘Here we go again.’”

Avent subsequently placed a call to Wolfpack offensive coordinator Mark Trestman – now the head coach of the Chicago Bears.

“I called Trestman and said, ‘Hey Mark, I need you to get Russell Wilson in camp and convince Chuck that he's a little taller than he is,’” Avent recounted. “Next thing you know, they sign Russell, and the rest is history.”

It was at that point that the long journey for the baseball player – and quarterback – began in earnest.

“Chuck and I recruited him for baseball, football. It was always baseball, football,” Avent said. “Now, in the process, Chuck leaves, and in comes Tom O'Brien. I had to go to Tom O'Brien and say, ‘This is baseball, football.’”

For three years, Wilson made the delicate balance of school, baseball and football work.

“He would actually get up at 5 a.m. to go to the early workouts for football so he could be out here in the afternoon,” Avent said of Wilson’s baseball dedication.

It got more complicated the summer before his third year, when Wilson was drafted by the Rockies. He played minor league baseball that summer, reported to fall football camp on time and produced a stellar campaign under center.

He wanted to continue playing minor league baseball the summer of 2011. O'Brien wanted Wilson to spend more time with football. The coach’s question: Do I take Wilson for one year or Mike Glennon for two?

"He’s not coming back. He’ll be a baseball player,” O’Brien said at the time. “We have to move forward with Glennon. We’ve planned for this day. I can’t sit here and say we’re going to wait for Russell to come back. We have to move forward. Mike is going to be the quarterback. That’s how we are going.”

That led to the transfer to Wisconsin where Wilson continued to flourish in one season as a Badger.

“It was something I wasn't very happy about,” Avent recounted. “I think it was one of the bad decisions in college sports – and not on Russell's part. I'm just saying we should have found a way to keep Russell Wilson here.”

59 Comments

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  • jscott13 Jan 23, 6:31 p.m.

    Thank you, Coach Avent, for standing up and saying that State should never have let Russell Wilson go. It's about time!

  • olivechapel1000 Jan 23, 7:25 p.m.

    May O’Brien be for ever remembered as the guy who Let Wilson Go. Glennon had a great 2 years, but still, Wilson is character. You stand by that. O’Brien is in VA now, hopefully watching and learning!

  • vt94hokies Jan 23, 7:31 p.m.

    I loved this one tonight on WRAL. Coach Avent had the intestional fortitude to finally tell the truth about the Wilson saga. Avent was responsible for Russell even coming to State. Chuck stated "he's short." Well. TOB wanted him full time, or not at all. Glennon did the job too.

    Finally glad to hear the true story about this. Avent shot TOB to the dirt; too. I have given kudos to Wilson for the long haul. Not in this last game. Go Broncos. I am a Peyton Manning and Broncos fan right now.

  • vt94hokies Jan 23, 7:39 p.m.

    TOB is probably in his last tenure as an asst. coach at UVA. He was too stubborn in how he handled Wilson. Russell proved most naysayers wrong all of his life. To short.... Super Bowl. This should be a lesson to all coaches, and especially players when people say that you don't measure up. "Too short."

  • Gunnstigator Jan 23, 8:33 p.m.

    As much as I don't like TOB, I don't see where he is at fault with how he handled the RW situation. TOB needed a commitment from Wilson, and Wilson couldn't give that commitment. TOB had to do what he thought was best for the program, and that's what he did. Glennon is no Wilson, but he did give State two good years.

    I'd say things worked out very well for RW - he got a lot more exposure at Wisconsin that he ever would have gotten at State.

    I give Avent credit for being honest; he was in a tough situation in that interview and he handled it well.

  • vt94hokies Jan 23, 9:17 p.m.

    TOB was the 1st coach to bring a thing called discipline to NC State vs a few others. Chuck was all about styling and profiling. TOB planned for the future, and Wilson was tettering on playing baseball. We all know how this worked out. Wilson really got some attention at Wisconsin. He grew up. He made his mind up too after failing pretty badly in baseball. I never liked TOB's interviews.

    I hope Russell Wilson will lose this last game.

  • vt94hokies Jan 23, 9:26 p.m.

    It says a bunch to me since WRAL changed this format on here. Some used to write loads of comments when they saw their numbers on here. Heh.

    Wonder where they are tonight? I enjoy writing on Facebook a heckeva lot more; anyway. I like this format now. Finally.

  • vt94hokies Jan 23, 9:33 p.m.

    7 statements on this topic. Where are all of the people that claim to boost on here. Most have never played nor coached. I have written this at least 13 times on WRAL. I know this. Funny. "I will hang on this forum until the cows come home. "

  • mittnfriends Jan 23, 9:53 p.m.

    Thank you, Russell, for not wasting your athletic gifts on a sedentary sport like beisbol.

  • Hammerhead Jan 23, 10:11 p.m.

    7 statements on this topic. Where are all of the people that claim to boost on here. Most have... View More

    — Posted by vt94hokies

    Pretty fired up tonight, eh Hokie?

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