Just a day before NC State's bowl game against Louisville, a game they would ultimately win, Tom O'Brien finally addressed the season's biggest controversy head on.
"I had to make a decision."
Maybe it was the successful ending of the season that put O'Brien in a more reflective mood. But with those words, O'Brien began his most frank discussion of the saga that played out over the summer and ultimately ended with Russell Wilson in Wisconsin.
The decision itself, for all the talk it generated and all the controversy it created, ended up working out well for pretty much all involved. Wilson got to play in a Rose Bowl. The Pack ended up with a solid 8-5 season that included a bowl win.
"We are happy for Russell," O'Brien said. "He made his decision. He wasn't ready to make a decision until July – we couldn't wait until July. We had to get on with business so he's had a great year. We are happy for Russell – he moved on. But we are certainly happy with Mike and we'll be happy with him next year when he's still here."
O'Brien acknowledged that part of his thought process was both his belief in Mike Glennon and the fact that Glennon would be around for two years as opposed to just one.
"I think certainly for the future of the program there was one thing certain – Mike Glennon would be here as a quarterback this year and into next year." O'Brien said. "I have to make decisions that are best for the football team not only this year but moving forward."
The key for the staff, and O'Brien specifically, seemed to be their unwavering belief in the talents of Glennon. It was a faith that fans, and media, weren't entirely sold on but that the staff – who saw Glennon every day in practice for three years – were confident would pay off over those two seasons.
"You talk about a guy who is driven, a guy who wants to be good." O'Brien said. "We talked about his maturity earlier, the fact that his brother went through it. This wasn't new territory to him."
Glennon rewarded their faith with a great season, one that showed growth and put him among the top quarterbacks in the conference despite no prior experience as a starter. What's particularly encouraging is how he responded late in the year – he had a three-game stretch late in the season where he threw four picks and just one touchdown as the Pack went 1-2.
But he responded by leading the Pack to a 3-0 finish to the season, including the bowl game, and throwing 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions over that time.
O'Brien said that he believes that all of the doubting from the Wilson saga over the summer helped to fuel Glennon's competitive fire.
"I think he used a lot of the Russell stuff as a motivator – that he was going to prove people wrong," O'Brien said.
Now O'Brien and his staff have a team that looks ready to compete at a high level in 2012. With Glennon back in the fold and a year under his belt, as well as a large group of returning starters the Pack could potentially challenge Clemson and Florida State for a division title.
On offense the Pack loses its fullback, tight end and a couple of starting wideouts but returns Glennon along with the entire offensive line and a stable of running backs including Mustafa Greene. On defense the Pack was hurt by the early departure of Terrell Manning but still returns most of its defensive line and its entire secondary.
Expectations are high in Raleigh heading into the 2012 season, and a major reason is because of the experience Mike Glennon gained in 2011 plus the productivity and improvement he displayed.
It all starts today as spring practice begins... with Glennon back to lead the way.