Russell Wilson may or may not have been testing the waters in Auburn Tuesday, but the national headlines that followed the rumor only confirmed his status as the most coveted transfer student in America. Besides Auburn, the former N.C. State standout — a first-team All-ACC pick in 2008 and a second-teamer last year after leading the conference in passing yards and touchdowns — has also been specifically connected to Wisconsin and speculatively linked to just about every quarterback-poor program in the country for his final year of eligibility this fall. Frankly, most of them could use him.
With his height and less-than-elite arm strength, though, the NFL scouts are indifferent: If Wilson has a future as a pro athlete, it's always been in baseball, where he was drafted in the fourth round last year by the Colorado Rockies and is currently in the midst of his second season with their Class A affiliate, the Asheville (N.C.) Tourists. This is an obvious problem for his football prospects: Wilson's inability/unwillingness to commit to returning to N.C. State before the end of baseball season this September forced coach Tom O'Brien to cut him loose last month. But his apparent unwillingness to give up on his football career isn't sitting too well with his current employer, either:
[Rockies' senior director of player development Marc] Gustafson also said it would be difficult for Wilson, who is struggling offensively with the Tourists, to return to baseball if he played football this fall.
"It would be hard for him to come back to baseball because he would miss a lot of games and have had so much time away," Gustafson said.
"It's an interesting scenario," Gustafson said. "He's a premium athlete who doesn't know what he wants to do. Until we know something different, we consider him to be a baseball player only.
"Would we be disappointed if he chose to play football? Yes, we would."
I don't know if that necessarily amounts to a threat, but I'm not sure a guy currently hitting a team-low .216 with more than twice as many strikeouts (53) as hits (25) in 116 at-bats is in position to test his boundaries. (By contrast, Wilson's Asheville teammate, former Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker, is hitting .303 and has accounted for nearly twice as many total bases.) Wilson would also have to return "a significant portion" of the $250,000 signing bonus he received last year if he leaves the team before the end of the regular season on Labor Day, Sept. 5, the same weekend most of the country kicks off the regular season for college football.
So: By pursuing another year of football, Wilson could be risking hits to both his bank account and the goodwill of an organization that's yet to see much return on its investment to be a four-month stopgap at an unfamiliar school, if he's able to wrestle the starting job away from a more tenured member of the team after arriving on short notice. Oh, while also enrolling in graduate school to remain eligible. If he does, at least no one will even question his commitment to the game again.
- - -
Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.