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December 1, 2008NC State redshirt freshman quarterback Russell Wilson became the first Pack signal caller since Philip Rivers to be named first-team All-ACC. The media overwhelmingly selected him over Duke's Thaddeus Lewis.
Wilson went 139 of 252 passing for 1,769 yards, 16 touchdowns and only one interception in 10 games. He also rushed for 342 yards on 108 carries and four scores.
Wilson leads the ACC with a 134.3 passing efficiency, touchdowns passing and total offense with 211.1 yards.
Wilson set a new school record that is still current, throwing 226 consecutive passes without an interception, which is also the longest active streak in the nation. No other Football Bowl Series quarterback has thrown fewer interceptions than his one pick.
"I really wasn't worried about any awards or anything like that," Wilson said. "I just wanted to win some games. I knew we had a great team, great coaching staff and great atmosphere in the stands. I knew if we played hard and won some games, it would turn out well."
Wilson ended the regular season on a tear after a rough beginning. The 5-foot-11, 191-pounder has thrown for 16 touchdowns and zero interceptions, plus rushed for four scores over his last eight healthy games. The Pack ended the season with four straight wins to become bowl eligible.
"Russell has had a remarkable year and we couldn't be any prouder of him for what he has accomplished for himself and for our football team," said NC State coach Tom O'Brien in a released statement. "This honor is a testament to how he came back from injuries twice this season and has become such a great leader at such a young age. He has not only been efficient in handling the duties of a quarterback, but has leadership skills that our team believes in and it's evident as soon as he walks into the huddle. He is very deserving of this honor, not only because of the statistics that he's posted, but because of the type of young man that he is."
During the stretch, Wilson's name started to pop up as a strong candidate for first-team all-conference, and he could also win the ACC Rookie of the Year award, and possibly Offensive Player of the Year.
Wilson was named the ACC Offensive Back of the Week following the ECU victory, and was conference Rookie Of The Week after the Florida State loss and the Miami victory.
"It was kind of a journey," Wilson said. "You learn that no matter who tries to bring you down or tries to stop you, you just have to keep working hard. All you can do is control what you do best. I really tried to work on the things during the spring and summer time, the things that I didn't do well, and improve on things that I've always been able to do."
The strong finish was the farthest thing from Wilson's mind when he was knocked out of the season opener with a Grade III concussion against South Carolina in the second quarter, and he couldn't play quarterback the following game against William & Mary.
Following a difficult game at Clemson when he went 10 of 21 for 92 yards and his only interception on the season, Wilson blossomed against East Carolina on Sept. 20, showing why the coaching staff had such strong faith in him that the offense was tweaked this year around his passing/running abilities.
Wilson led NC State to a 30-24 overtime victory, passing for three touchdowns and 210 yards on 21 of 31 passing, plus gave a glimpse of his scrambling which has confounded defenses all season.
"During the ECU game, I really found myself under control," Wilson said. "I realized that if I played smart football and relied on my teammates, the other 10 guys on the team, and relied on the seniors and relied on the coaching staff, that I could be a pretty good quarterback."
The Pirates game also created another speed bump due to a shoulder injury that caused Wilson to miss the South Florida game.
A healthy Wilson re-started his season for a third time against Boston College on Oct. 4, and helped turn around NC State's season, which could culminate in a bowl berth somewhere in the U.S.
"There is a lot of buzz going around the stadium, but we'd be excited to go to any bowl game," Wilson said. "We know our fans travel well, no matter what bowl game it is. It will be a great atmosphere."
Wilson was also quick to praise offensive coordinator Dana Bible and coach Tom O'Brien for guiding along his progress.
"I think he [Bible] taught me a lot as a person," Wilson said. "He taught me how to find myself, be under control, how to compete. I'm a pretty hard competitor. Sometimes, I'd try and compete too hard. I'd sometimes try to push too much. I had to [learn] when to salvage plays, when to throw the ball away for example. When to take off and run, and when not to at the same time."
Wilson remembers coming to Carter-Finley Stadium as a Richmond Spiders fan to watch his older brother play against NC State. The seeds were planted then for what he wanted to do for his own college football experience.
"I wanted to be in that position, where I could be playing big-time college football in this kind of atmosphere at North Carolina State University," Wilson said. "I love it here so far."
Three Wolfpack players received honorable mention All-ACC: defensive end Willie Young, linebacker Nate Irving and specialist T.J. Graham.
Irving missed three complete games and parts of two others with an ankle injury, but still finished third on the team with 73 tackles, led the squad with four interceptions and added 9.0 tackles for loss, one sack, one forced fumble and one recovered fumble.
Young led NC State with 6.5 sacks, 11.0 tackles for loss and nine quarterback hurries. He added 54 tackles to lead the Pack's defensive lineman, had two recovered fumbles and one interception.
Graham returned 36 kickoffs for 893 yards and a 24.8 average. He went 100 yards for a touchdown against Boston College on Oct. 4 to set a new school record. Graham also added 14 punt returns for an 8.2 yards per return average.
First Team All-ACC
QB: Russell Wilson, NC State (106 points out of a maximum of 134)
RB: Jonathan Dwyer, Georgia Tech (134)
RB: Da'Rel Scott, Maryland (76)
WR: Hakeem Nicks, N. Carolina (130)
WR: D.J. Boldin, Wake Forest (76)
TE: John Phillips, Virginia (88)
OT: Eugene Monroe, Virginia (117)
OT: Andrew Gardner, Georgia Tech (107)
OG: Rodney Hudson, Florida State (99)
OG: Clif Ramsey, Boston College (78)
C: Edwin Williams, Maryland (62)
DE: Everette Brown, Florida State (131)
DE: Michael Johnson, Georgia Tech (99)
DT: B.J. Raji, Boston College (103)
DT: Vance Walker, Georgia Tech (62)
LB: Mark Herzlich, Boston College (118)
LB: Michael Tauiliili, Duke (110)
LB: Aaron Curry, Wake Forest (106)
CB: Alphonso Smith, Wake Forest (134)
CB: Victor Harris, Virginia Tech (125)
S: Trimane Goddard, N. Carolina (105)
S: Michael Hamlin, Clemson (89)
PK: Graham Gano, Florida State (127)
P: Travis Baltz, Maryland (105)
AP: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (66)
Second Team All-ACC
QB: Thaddeus Lewis, Duke (28)
RB: Darren Evans, Virginia Tech (58)
RB: C.J. Spiller, Clemson (50)
WR: Eron Riley, Duke (57)
WR: Aaron Kelly, Clemson (56)
TE: Ryan Purvis, Boston College (45)
OT: Garrett Reynolds, N. Carolina (42)
OT: Anthony Castonzo, Boston College (41)
OG: Sergio Render, Virginia Tech (48)
OG: Cord Howard, Georgia Tech (45)
C: Thomas Austin, Clemson (48)
DE: Orion Martin, Virginia Tech (61)
DE: Jason Worilds, Virginia Tech (39)
DT: Ron Brace, Boston College (52)
DT: Darryl Richard, Georgia Tech (50)
LB: Clint Sintim, Virginia (79)
LB: Alex Wujciak, Maryland (43)
LB: Mark Paschal, North Carolina (40)
CB: Ras-I Dowling, Virginia (49)
CB: (tie) Tony Carter, Florida State and Kendric Burney, N. Carolina (34)
S: Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (85)
S: Myron Rolle, Florida State (34)
PK: Matt Bosher, Miami (34)
P: Matt Bosher, Miami (60)
AP: Michael Ray Garvin, Florida State (41)
Honorable Mention (20 points or more)
QB: Riley Skinner, Wake Forest (26)
RB: Antone Smith, Florida State (33), Cedric Peerman, Virginia (30)
WR: Darius Heyward-Bey, Maryland (34), Kevin Ogletree, Virginia (32)
TE: Dan Gronkowski, Maryland (41)
OT: Scott Burley, Maryland (34)
OG: Thomas Claiborne, Boston College (38), Calvin Darity, N. Carolina (34), Jamie Thomas, Maryland (33), Nick Marshman, Virginia Tech (24)
C: Ryan McMahon, Florida State (35), Matt Tennant, Boston College (33), Ryan Shuman, Virginia Tech (23)
DE: Derrick Morgan, Georgia Tech (26), Willie Young, NC State (25)
DT: Vince Oghobaase, Duke (40), Boo Robinson, Wake Forest (31), Jeremy Navarre, Maryland (29)
LB: Nate Irving, NC State (28)
S: Paul Anderson, Boston College (35), Anthony Reddick (23)
PK: Dustin Keys, Virginia Tech (25)
AP: Brandon Tate, N. Carolina (33), T.J. Graham, NC State (31)