Classes started at NC State Aug. 18, and redshirt junior quarterback Russell Wilson took his first courses as a graduate student.
The former two-sport standout had several options after graduating last May. He signed a professional contract with the Colorado Rockies to play baseball in June. He chose however to come back for at least one more year of football at NC State.
Wilson could have also taken the easy way out and enrolled in some soft classes just to maintain his student-athlete status, but you will not find him taking a bunch of physical education classes. Instead Wilson continues to focus on his communications major.
"I want to learn more," Wilson said. "If football is going to give me a full scholarship, you might as well use it the right way and try to learn something."
Better learning the field of communications may help Wilson achieve one of his post-athletic career goals, working for ESPN. First though comes the mission at hand, leading NC State football to its first winning season during Wilson's career. Wilson is expected to lead a prolific Wolfpack offense that returns several key players, especially in the passing game, off a unit that scored an average of 30.3 points per game last year.
"I think the sky's the limit [for the offense]," Wilson said. "I think we got a lot of talent, and they work. It's not just the talent, they put in the effort. It's wide receivers, tight ends, running backs, they work their butts off every day. I work with them. I try to keep up with their level. They are doing a great job. There are high expectations, but more importantly we have high expectations for ourselves."
Wilson has been pushed this preseason by redshirt sophomore signal caller Mike Glennon, whom Wilson noted has done a "great job" during camp. He is also confident that State can get off to a quicker start offensively in 2010 than it did last year, scoring just three points against South Carolina.
Some speculated that Wilson was less than effective that contest because the coaches asked him to dial back on his scrambling, a notion Wilson disputed.
"I wasn't worried about that last year, really," Wilson said. "We just had a tough game last year. It was a good game, lost 7-3. It was one of those games. I think that this year whatever it takes to win type of deal. I want to get the ball to the talent out in the flanks and the running backs and tight ends, give them the ball."
With a three senior receivers and a redshirt junior tight end in George Bryan that was first-team All-ACC among Wilson's receiving targets, he has an impressive collection of veteran targets.
"It's an equal opportunity type thing for me, they know that," Wilson said. "I'm not the type of guy that one guy's out there, one guy's not. Whoever's open is going to get the ball."
The key to the balance of the offense however is going to fall on a collection of young and inexperienced running backs, but Wilson expressed confidence in their abilities.
He also believes the defense will be much improved from last year when they gave up an average of 31.2 points per game. Wilson though downplayed the notion that new linebackers coach Jon Tenuta has help installed a much more aggressive, blitz-happy package on defense.
The Pack will begin preparations for Western Carolina next week, and they will focus on fine-tuning their playbook and fundamentals until then. Wilson is not changing his approach from preparing for openers against South Carolina the last two years to Western Carolina Sept. 4.
"It's no different," Wilson said. "I wouldn't say Western Carolina is a lesser talent or anything like that. They are going to come in here and be ready to go just like we are going to be ready to go. It doesn't matter what the name says on the jerseys. A hundred yards is a hundred yards."
That's the type of attitude Wolfpack head coach Tom O'Brien would appreciate.
"[O'Brien]'s always been the same guy," Wilson noted. "That's the best thing about Coach O'Brien that I can say. He's always consistent. He sticks to what he says. You know what you are going to get everyday. That's a positive thing, same with the rest of the coaching staff.
"I think it's a positive thing for our team, it's a positive thing for any organization, team, when you know what you are going to get, what they want, the expectations they have for you on and off the field. That's a good thing."
Wilson noted that this preseason, players are taking it upon themselves to take charge at times in practice.
"The main thing I have noticed this preseason is other players getting on other guys if they are not doing something right," Wilson said. "We're pushing each other and getting better everyday."