This the first part of a series examining the most successful second chances in college football history. We will highlight players and coaches that have found success or redemption at a second school after a transfer or coaching change in Double Dip, presented by IHop. We start with a look at quarterback Russell Wilson, who transferred from NC State to the Wisconsin in 2011 and led the Badgers to a Big Ten title and appearance in the Rose Bowl.
Starting out -- NC State: Wilson became the starter in the middle of his freshman year, out-playing Harrison Beck and earning the job. In his three years with the Wolfpack, Wilson completed 57.8 percent of his passes, throwing for 8,545 yards with 76 touchdowns and 26 interceptions. Wilson wasn’t just a star on the football field, though.
He was also a highly sought after baseball prospect. Wilson was selected in the fourth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Colorado Rockies and spent that offseason playing 32 games with their short-season Class A affiliate. Wilson’s time on the baseball diamond didn’t seem to effect his performance on the gridiron as he passed for 3,563 yards and 28 touchdowns that fall for NC State -- leading the ACC in both categories -- with the Wolfpack finishing 9-4. However, when he again chose to play minor league baseball the following offseason, NC State coach Tom O’Brien made the decision to grant him his release instead.
O’Brien chose to go with Mike Glennon over Wilson -- Glennon was also a candidate to be a graduate transfer. One of the main reasons O’Brien made that decision was that Wilson would miss offseason workouts and spring practices while playing baseball. Wilson was granted his release from NC State in April of 2011, and with his degree already finished, he was free to transfer anywhere he liked and play immediately under the NCAA's graduate transfer rule.
Double dip -- Wisconsin: Wilson landed in Madison where the Badgers were coming off of a Rose Bowl appearance in 2010, but the team had serious questions at quarterback after Scott Tolzien graduated. Wilson stepped in and earned the starting job in fall camp after another stint in Class A ball in the Rockies organization that summer.
Surrounded by a strong group of skill position players -- led by the running back tandem of Montee Ball and James White -- and a sensational offensive line, Wilson put together one of the most efficient seasons in recent memory, completing 72.8 percent of his passes for 3,175 yards with 33 touchdowns and just 4 interceptions. He led the country in pass efficiency in 2011 with a 191.8 rating and took the Badgers to the Big Ten title and a second straight Rose Bowl appearance.
Wilson became the poster-child for how to use the graduate transfer rule to one's benefit by picking out the right situation where he would have the opportunity to be a starter immediately and also play in a system that was tailored to his strengths.
Where is Wilson now? His success at Wisconsin helped improve his draft stock, and despite his smaller stature (5-foot-11), he landed with the Seattle Seahawks in the third round of the 2012 NFL draft (75th overall). Wilson's season at Wisconsin showed how effective he could be, particularly in play-action and complimenting a strong running game with an extremely efficient passing attack.
In his three seasons as the starter in Seattle, Wilson has translated that college success to the NFL. He earned Rookie of the Year honors in 2012 and led the Seahawks to back-to-back Super Bowl appearances -- hoisting the Lombardi Trophy in the 2013-14 season. Wilson continues to dabble in baseball, spending spring training this past year with the Texas Rangers, but football is always where he ends up once the fall rolls around.
Of course, Wilson also made headlines last week by agreeing to a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension with $60 million in guaranteed money.