MILWAUKEE – Former North Carolina State quarterback Russell Wilson is headed to Wisconsin, potentially solving one of the biggest hurdles standing between the Badgers and a Big Ten title.
Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema said Monday that Wilson will compete for the Badgers’ starting job in the fall. The two-sport star most recently played in the Colorado Rockies’ minor league system but apparently is ready to hang up his baseball spikes.
“This is an unusual situation, especially for a program that prides itself on developing players throughout their careers, as we do here at Wisconsin,” Bielema said in a statement released by the school. “However, this is a special situation and Russell is the type of player and person that fits very well with our team.”
Wilson has one year of eligibility remaining and can play right away. He will attend graduate school at UW. This past April, Diverse named Wilson its 2011 Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar male honoree; the award recognizes academic and athletic excellence in college student-athletes.
Wilson also considered Auburn before settling on Wisconsin.
In an appearance on ESPN’s “College Football Live” Monday afternoon, Wilson said he didn’t seek any assurances from Wisconsin’s coaching staff about being the No. 1 quarterback.
“I never want to be told that I have the starting job,” Wilson said. “I never believe in that that. I believe that being the competitor that I am, you have to compete every single day.”
Still, Wilson’s arrival could fill a glaring need for the Badgers, who must replace the solid play of quarterback Scott Tolzien after their run to the Rose Bowl. Wilson could make the Badgers a favorite in the conference.
Wisconsin’s offense failed to score a touchdown in the spring game in April as prospective starters Jon Budmayr and Joe Brennan both struggled under center. Joel Stave appeared to be the sharpest quarterback of the bunch in the spring game, but he is a true freshman.
Bielema said at the time that those three quarterbacks “aren’t anywhere where we need them to be for us to be a competitive team in the fall.” Another potential starter, Curt Phillips, will miss the season after having knee surgery.
In his three seasons with the Wolfpack, Wilson threw for 8,545 yards and 76 touchdowns with 26 interceptions.
In 13 games last season, Wilson completed 58.4 percent of his passes for 3,563 yards with 28 touchdowns and 14 interceptions. Wilson also rushed for 435 yards and nine touchdowns last season.
The 5-foot-11, 201-pound Wilson is a native of Richmond, Va.
Wilson was drafted by the Rockies in the fourth round last year and hit .228 with three home runs and 15 RBIs as a second baseman for their Single-A affiliate in Asheville, N.C. The Asheville team confirmed Wilson will not play with the Tourists or any other team in the Rockies’ organization for the remainder of the 2011 season.
The Rockies placed Wilson on the minor league restricted list and will retain his baseball rights should he decide to return to professional baseball.
Wilson’s desire to play both sports ultimately led to his early departure from N.C. State. Coach Tom O’Brien released the all-Atlantic Coast Conference quarterback two months ago largely because his baseball commitments kept him from taking part in offseason workouts.
“We appreciate all of Russell’s contributions to NC State, and we wish him nothing but the best in his future,” O’Brien said in a statement.
AP Sports Writers Joedy McCreary in Raleigh, N.C. and Pat Graham in Denver contributed to this report.