NC State quarterback Russell Wilson had a busy summer, full of ups and downs: he was drafted by the Colorado Rockies in the fourth round of the MLB draft on the day before his father passed away. Yet, two weeks later he was playing baseball in Washington state, suiting up for the Tri-City Dust Devils. He made it back to Raleigh in time for the first football practice, and also got engaged to his girlfriend in the process, but his whirlwind schedule hasn't changed since the start of football season.
The Pack's best start since the Philip Rivers era, the team standing as the last undefeated squad in the ACC, boasting a stat line that includes 11 touchdowns and just one interception, granting numerous interview requests, and the possibility of a Heisman campaign, in addition to a full slate of graduate courses, have kept the redshirt junior a little busy. If it has affected Wilson in the least bit, he calmly sidesteps it like a blitzing linebacker and goes about his business.
"The Lord puts you in certain situations that you can always handle, that's what I believe," Wilson said. "There's never too much that I can't handle that he will put on me.
"I'm a very confident person, but I focus more on the team than myself. That's why I am successful the way I am on Saturday - because of the team, not me personally. That's the way I look at it."
The team captain has quarterbacked the Pack to its first 4-0 start since 2002, but Wilson and his teammates are not content with what has been accomplished so far. With a leader like Wilson around, it would be tough to envision anyone resting on their laurels. The redshirt junior may be considered one of the nation's elite quarterback, but he tirelessly works like an undersized walk-on still trying to garner the coaches' attention.
"[The way the team is playing is] definitely satisfying, but, at the same time, I have a lot of confidence in myself and a lot of confidence in my talent to know that when I really put my mind to it, I can get better each week," he said. "There's always something that I can get better at, and I'm always trying to find the little things I can get better at, and the big things, too."
The team's goal from the beginning of the season has been to hoist the ACC Championship trophy in Charlotte at the end of the year, according to Wilson. While he admits the national attention the Pack is starting to receive is encouraging, the quarterback insists that it won't be a distraction. Saturday against Virginia Tech will be the Pack's second home game nationally broadcasted by ESPN.
"100 yards is 100 yards and obviously having the cameras there in your face brings a little excitement, but we never really talk about it as players," he said. "It's a nationally televised game, everybody is looking at you and your distant family can see you play so that's always exciting."
Obviously, losing his father was the toughest ordeal that Wilson has faced so far, but staying true to his optimistic philosophy on the field - "if something bad happens, let's turn it into two positives," he says - the quarterback contends that Harrison now has one of the best seats in the house.
"I'm happy for him because I know he's in a better place than I am right now," Wilson said. "He can watch every game without having to worry about bumping somebody to the side of him in a full stadium."
One piece of advice the father passed onto his son, and Russell still strives to live by was, "there's a king in every crowd." The younger Wilson explains that his father meant there is always somebody watching and, while you can't do everything perfect, you should try to do it all the right way.
"In terms of playing sports, somebody's always watching: whether it's a scout, a coach, fans, a young kid watching you and trying to imitate you," Wilson said. "In terms of my spiritual life, the Lord is always watching me and, in terms of my social life, my Dad is always watching me now."
There will certainly be plenty of eyes on Wilson as he leads the Pack into the crucial conference battle this weekend. The native of Richmond, Va. was scouted by the Hokies during his career at Collegiate High, but they had another quarterback higher on their priority list: Tyrod Taylor.
With Taylor in tow, the Hokies' football squad never even officially offered Wilson a scholarship. In fact, NC State and Duke were the only ACC schools that offered Wilson the chance to play baseball and football, something that Harrison excelled in at Dartmouth and something that the younger Wilson had his heart set on doing in his collegiate career.
"They liked Tyrod Taylor, he's a great quarterback and they got him, so I decided to look somewhere else, and I'm glad I'm here at NC State," Wilson said. "[Virginia Tech] looked at me some. I never went to camp there, they saw me play several times in high school, though. I wasn't too far away."
Wilson also mentioned that the team's chemistry has played a huge role in the early season success. The team not only supports each other through the thick and thin, they are pushing their teammates harder than ever before, sensing they could be on the verge on something special.
"You can't really compare season to season, but we definitely are together," he said. "That's the best thing: we're sticking together through the ups and downs. We're competing every day in practice and trying to get each other better individually, but also as a team. If you get better individually each and every day, the team is going to get better. It's a process, we have to keep working together, but we've got different leaders on the team that are stepping up; from the captains, to the seniors, even the freshmen."
While the 4-0 start may have dropped the jaws of some fans, it's simply what Wilson was expecting when he got back to Raleigh from his summer as a minor league baseball player.
"I'm not surprised at all," he said. "I know what our offense can do, what our defense can do and what our special teams can do. I have all the confidence in the world in our team each week."
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