NC State's Wilson Named ACC Rookie of the Year by ACSMA
Dec. 2, 2008
RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - Russell Wilson helped North Carolina State turn its year around and push the Wolfpack within reach of a bowl invitation with his brilliant late-season play. Still, he catches a bit of teasing from senior teammate Anthony Hill to keep the freshman in line.
"You're still a rook," Hill tells him.
True, but he's just not playing like one.
One day after becoming the first freshman quarterback picked to the all-conference team, Wilson was named the Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year on Tuesday after leading the Wolfpack to four straight wins to end the regular season. The redshirt freshman earned 62 of 67 votes from members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association, easily outdistancing Virginia Tech tailback Darren Evans and Miami linebacker Sean Spence.
Wilson has been the best player on the ACC's hottest team, playing mistake-free football while frustrating opponents with his mobility. Wilson has thrown for 1,769 passing yards, second to NFL quarterback Philip Rivers in school history by a freshman. He also leads the league in touchdown passes and in passing efficiency, and has run for four touchdowns for the Wolfpack (6-6, 4-4 ACC).
But perhaps most impressively, Wilson has thrown only one interception all year. In his last eight starts, Wilson has thrown 16 touchdowns with no interceptions and has a national-best 226 straight passes without a pick, a school record.
"That's the thing I pride myself on: taking care of the ball," Wilson said. "That's what coach (Tom) O'Brien wants as an offense and a team. You've got to be smart with it, but you've also got to know your players. You've got to trust your players. You've got to make some big-time throws and they've got to make some big-time catches."
Wilson seemed to get better with each game and played probably his best games in wins against rival North Carolina and Miami to close the year.
Wilson threw for two touchdowns and had a key run to set up another score in the 41-10 rout of the Tar Heels. He finished with a career-high 279 yards passing to go with 50 yards rushing in that game. In last weekend's 38-28 win against the Hurricanes, Wilson threw for 220 yards and two scores while running for 58 yards and a dazzling, back-across-the-field run for a 29-yard touchdown.
Not bad for a guy who entered the season in a five-way battle for the starting quarterback job.
"When you have a young player coming in, a freshman, you have your jitters about him, especially in the preseason," receiver Owen Spencer said after the Miami game. "But you had to just believe, and when Coach made the decision to start him, we all pulled together. He's grown so much as a player and a person. We love him so much. He's our leader on the team."
Things certainly haven't been easy for Wilson. His father had a stroke in August as he competed for the job, then he suffered a concussion in the first half of the opener at South Carolina. He missed the next game and returned at Clemson, then returned to lead the Wolfpack past unbeaten East Carolina only to suffer an injury late in that game and sit out the following week against South Florida.
Yet once Wilson returned, he played with the savvy of a four-year starter and helped the Wolfpack erase a 2-6 start.
"I wasn't really worried about any awards or anything like that," Wilson said. "I just wanted to win some games. I knew we had a great team and coaching staff. I just knew if we played hard and won some games that things could turn out well.
"You have to learn as an athlete and competitor how to keep pushing no matter who tries to stop you. You've got to keep working hard. All you can do control is the things you can do best."
Wilson also was named offensive rookie of the year, while Spence was named defensive rookie of the year.
Voting results for the 2008 Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year awards, as voted on by 67 members of the Atlantic Coast Sports Media Association.
ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
OFFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR
DEFENSIVE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR