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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Wilson leaving brief, impressive legacy at Wisconsin

In one year at Wisconsin, Russell Wilson brought the Badgers’ offense to new heights, gave the team its second Heisman Trophy top-10 finisher and led UW to a return trip to the Rose Bowl. Next up for the senior quarterback figures to be getting drafted in the NFL.[/media-credit]

His announcement to join the Wisconsin football team came in late June, and now, just six months later, Russell Wilson will soon be departing.

Come Jan. 2, Wilson, the quarterback who fell out of the blue sky into the laps of the one-puzzle-piece-missing Badgers, will don a cardinal and white uniform for the last time in the promised land of Big Ten football – the Rose Bowl.

Although fans and teammates will certainly consider Wilson’s stay in Camp Randall Stadium all too brief, the North Carolina State transfer has certainly made his one season with the Badgers worthwhile. His lasting impact and legacy – whether it comes with a Rose Bowl crown or not – is certainly one that will stick around for quite some time, perhaps in multiple ways.


“That’s the thing about that, he’s only been here one year and he made a pretty fine print on this [program],” running back Montee Ball, a Heisman finalist, said. “But I expected it. When I first saw him come in, just his intelligence and just his determination to get the job done – and he has. He’s one heck of a leader, and day in and day out, he’s always working.”

After his commitments to minor league baseball ultimately expedited his exit from NC State, Wilson’s transfer came barely a month prior to the start of fall camp and two months before the season opener.

But in no time, Wilson won over both the starting job and his teammates, earning captaincy after practicing with the team for only three weeks.

The rest is already etched in record books and various plaques. In leading Wisconsin to an 11-2 record and a Big Ten title, Wilson’s 2,879 passing yards are 41 away from breaking the school record for most passing yards in a season, and his 72.5 completion percentage sits just short of Scott Tolzien’s 72.9 as the best single-season completion percentage in program history.

Wilson’s 191.6 passer rating would break the NCAA record (so would Heisman Trophy-winner Robert Griffin III’s 192.3), and his 28 touchdown passes are seven better than John Stocco’s former Badger record.

And to top it off, he’s wowed audiences with the ball tucked as well.

Wilson has run for an additional 456 yards and five touchdowns this season, and he even hauled in a 25-yard touchdown reception in the Big Ten Championship Game.

Those numbers propelled the 5-foot-11 signal-caller to the forefront of the Heisman debate at one point in the season, in which he eventually finished ninth in the voting. He did, on the other hand, earn the Big Ten’s inaugural Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year award and earned consensus first team All-Big Ten accolades. Wilson also won the Grange-Griffin MVP award in Indianapolis.

In a program with a tradition of emphasizing the running game, which tended to render the quarterback more of a game-manager than playmaker, Wilson became an offensive element the Badgers had never quite seen before.

He’s displayed an aptitude for fourth-quarter comebacks, as well. With 8:40 remaining, Wilson led a 14-point charge to tie the game in his first meeting with Michigan State. In the following week, after trailing 12 points with 4:39 left, Wilson engineered two scoring drives that resulted in Wisconsin taking a three-point lead with 1:18 to go.

Wisconsin ultimately was vexed in those two games by last-second defensive letdowns, but things came through in Indianapolis with the Big Ten title on the line. In the fourth quarter against Michigan State, Wilson led Wisconsin on an eight-play, 64-yard drive that featured a miraculous 36-yard throw-and-catch from Wilson to wide receiver Jeff Duckworth on a 4th-and-6, and ended with a go-ahead touchdown.

Wilson, ever so humble, remains thankful just to be a part of the Badgers, after the team he was once a part of for three years no longer had a spot for him.

“I’ve been truly blessed to be in this situation, to be playing for the Wisconsin Badgers. It’s a great place to play,” Wilson said. “You’re playing under a great coaching staff with [head coach Bret Bielema], playing quarterback behind [offensive coordinator Paul Chryst]; there’s nothing better than that.”

Even before his one season comes to a close, the Badgers themselves are already feeling a reason to be thankful Wilson chose Wisconsin over his other transfer option, Auburn.

With Wisconsin known for routinely sporting a solid supporting cast for any quarterback – in the name of gigantic offensive lineman, powerful running backs and reliable targets – the Badgers have apparently been fielding more transfer inquiries after Wilson performed the way he did.

“I think because of Russell’s success and the ease in which it happened, I’d be lying to you if I told you people haven’t inquired about that same type of scenario, not just at quarterback but at other positions, as well,” Bielema said.

But despite what Wilson might have done for the program and for its fans’ excitement, Bielema maintains that the real winner in this transfer deal was No. 16 himself, who recently earned an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl, an annual game featuring the nation’s top senior NFL Draft prospects.

“He was playing in a system where he was kind of the show (at NC State) in the spread and now he’s shown how well he can dictate the flow of a game in a pro-style offense, playing with offensive lineman that are 6-foot-5 in front of him that are bigger than most NFL lineman that he could possibly play for,” Bielema said. “He made a jump this year in a lot of NFL camps because of that.

“I think the neat thing for Russell is, obviously, the University of Wisconsin and all of the Wisconsin fans enjoyed a lot because of Russell being here, but he’s probably going to be the biggest benefactor.”

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