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August 22, 2008Russell Wilson has dreamed for a long time to be taking snaps at quarterback on the big stage.
The 5-foot-11, 191-pound redshirt freshman earned the chance to fulfill his fantasy, earning the starting spot for North Carolina State as they play at South Carolina on Aug. 28 on ESPN.
Wilson started as one of five quarterbacks pursuing the job, but finally edged out redshirt senior Daniel Evans, the incumbent, to earn the starting nod. NC State coach Tom O'Brien had a meeting with both Wilson and Evans on Friday morning to tell them the news.
Wilson called his parents back home in Richmond, Va., to let them know about the news, saying his mom has been praying for him.
"I was definitely excited," Wilson said upon learning the news. "We will be prepared for South Carolina. I never really worried about it [the starting spot]. I've been waiting for this my whole life. My mindset has been on this."
Having now settled on a quarterback, the team will have one less distraction heading into the first game.
"The decision always came down to who would give us the best chance to win the football game," O'Brien said. "That was the deciding factor. He did things well enough for us to think he is the guy we have to have under center to win the football game. Somebody grabbed the thing and we have to move forward."
Wilson knows he'll have to prove himself. He has heard the critics say he's too small and not experienced enough.
"I don't really worry about other people," Wilson said. "I know my talent and what I can do and can't do. I've always tried to be a good leader and try to be myself. I like helping other people."
Wilson has played on the big stage during NC State's baseball season last spring, playing at Georgia, Clemson and Florida State. He also was part of the team that ended South Carolina's baseball season. He believes what he experienced in baseball will help him settle down vs. the Gamecock's football team.
Wilson also stressed that even though he plays the marquee position on the team, the game won't be about him. He was effusive in his praise of Evans and spread credit to his teammates.
"I just hopefully want to win some games and push each other each day," Wilson said. "I'm just worried about my team and pushing them up and down the field and come out with the win. South Carolina is a great team."
Evans has been around long enough to know how fast things can change. A year ago he won the starting quarterback job for the season opener against Central Florida. By halftime, backup Harrison Beck was inserted into the game. The coaching staff won't have quite an itchy trigger finger with Wilson, but Evans is expected to work at least a series against South Carolina during the first half.
"I'm just one play away," Evans said. "I never felt things were slipping away from me. We had our scrimmage Tuesday and thought I played well, but Russell has been playing great too. I feel I have done pretty much everything I could have done."
Evans was disappointed to hear the news, but said his Christian faith and love for NC State helped put things in the proper perspective.
"I love NC State football and I love this team," Evans said. "I love my teammates and I love this University. I'm just going to do everything I can to help us win games. I'm going to prepare every week and be ready."
O'Brien said it took half the season a year ago to figure out what is best for the team. He is hoping for Wilson to build off his play in fall camp and spring practice to help give the offense an identity to start the season.
He will also play it by ear to see how he'll handle playing both Wilson and Evans against South Carolina.
"Somewhere in the first half, he [Evans] will have to go in and play," O'Brien said. "He's done too much for this program. He's a good enough player. Somewhere, Russell is going to get tired in the first half because of the emotion of the night. It might be more [than one series], but it will depend on the game situation and how things are."