Avent: "He Is A Leader"

RALEIGH, N.C. -- On Thursday, much to everyone's surprise, the Texas Rangers selected Russell Wilson in the MLB Rule 5 draft.

For a small fee, the Rangers have the rights to Wilson should he decide to give professional baseball another try. There has been speculation that even if Wilson eschews a return to baseball Texas would still be interested in bringing him in to meet and with its minor leaguers during Spring Training.

Wilson played baseball at N.C. State for three seasons and also was a minor leaguer in the Colorado Rockies system before settling on a career in professional football. His team, the Seattle Seahawks, currently own the best record in the NFL.

N.C. State head coach Elliott Avent, fresh off guiding the Pack to its first College World Series in 45 years, met with Pack Pride and discussed Wilson's baseball career and talked about the work ethic that has made him one of the better quarterbacks in the league.

What was your react to hearing about Russell Wilson being selected by the Texas Rangers?
It is probably shocking to some people because he is doing so well in football, but I coached Russell for three years and I recruited Russell.

He always said ‘I am going to play Major League Baseball', so I know his passion and achievement level. You wouldn't think of him playing Major League Baseball but I sure in the back of his mind that still exists. It probably never left.

Russell is a very achievement-oriented person. I was very excited for him. It speaks to the fact that people have not forgotten what a great prospect he was in professional baseball. I was tickled to death to see that.

How do you rate Wilson's work ethic and rate him as a leader?
There have been so many people I have come across in my life that I put on a list separate of others who have a work ethic that exceeds most others.

Russell Wilson may top the list of those I have ever seen because he had to balance two sports. He was the quarterback in one sport, which means he had extra responsibilities. He had to be the leader—the first one in and the last one to leave—so he had even greater responsibility in football.

Then he graduated from N.C. State with something like a 3.00 GPA in three years. He was so managed in college that I was blown away. He is one of the best I have ever seen.

Where do you think that comes from?
He is the product of a generation of family members who always do things the right way. They are driven. When I quit being blown away by him was when I met his family. That is when it all came into place.

Do you and Wilson still keep in touch?
He had so many great friends on the baseball team. We stay in touch mostly by text. He is so busy right now, not only in football, but in volunteering as well.

There was a great special on ESPN about all the volunteering he and his wife have done since being in Seattle. So he is very busy but we do stay in touch and he is still a big part of N.C. State baseball.

If he attempts to play baseball again, is this a good move by the Rangers?
That is a great investment. You have to think now Russell is one of the top-5 quarterbacks in the NFL and probably wants to have a long career, and he probably will have one. But you also have to think about three years ago when everyone thought he could not play in the NFL. He is not too short to play in the NFL.

I assume whatever Texas paid for his rights in baseball it is an investment just in case something goes wrong in football and to give both of them some options on the table. That is just smart on their part to invest in him.

Whether Wilson is mentoring minor leaguers for the Rangers if he does not play or perhaps is in Raleigh preparing with your team to make another run at baseball, what effect will he have on the other players?
When Russell Wilson is ever in the presence of any of your players, your team instantly gets better. He had that knack as a player. It is not just about Russell's play at quarterback for Seattle, it is about his leadership.

I don't really look at his stats. His value is in that he is a leader and he makes everybody better on that ballclub. That is what he is doing in Seattle and that is what he did at N.C. State, whether it is football or baseball.

Anytime you can have Russell Wilson around your players, you have to do it.

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