O'Brien: They Are All Great Success Stories

Former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien, now an assistant at Virginia, held a teleconference today to discuss his four former Wolfpack players who will be participating in the Super Bowl: Russell Wilson, J.R. Sweezy, Nate Irving, and Steven Hauschka.

Former NC State head coach Tom O'Brien, now an assistant at Virginia, held a teleconference today to discuss his four former Wolfpack players who will be participating in the Super Bowl: Russell Wilson, J.R. Sweezy, Nate Irving, and Steven Hauschka.

Tom O'Brien

Could you share your first experience with Russell. I know you didn't recruit him to NC State, but your first interactions when you arrived.
We actually recruited and signed him. He was a part of the first class we had. He was committed to the previous staff, and we took it over.

I first met him in Richmond and on his official visit. We were certainly excited he chose to come to NC State.

Four players, that's pretty impressive when you look at the success they had. What do you think about that group?
They are all great success stories.

You look at Nate, Nate had that tragic accident right before his senior year. Everybody that looked at the car doesn't know how he got out of the car. I can remember being in the hospital room the next day, and they knew he had a broken leg, he was in a neck brace, his lung was collapsed, I think he separated his shoulder, they weren't sure of spinal injuries.

We were texting this week, and he says, "Haha, the doctor said I'd never play football again." What a great story it is for Nate to work his way back. Very tentative when he came back but by the end of his senior year he was a heckuva player for us.

Steven Hauschka, Jerry Petercuskie did a great job of finding him. He was at a small college and wanted to try to kick big-time. We were glad he came to State.

He has great form and never over-kicks the football. He even bounced around in the NFL. I don't know if there were five or six teams he'd been with... but he found a home in Seattle.

He is a great example for young kids. Never to overstride, never to overhit. He knows his limitations, if the story is correct that I read last week where he said, "I don't think I can make this coach." Where they changed their mind and went for it. It's pretty special to have a guy like that and have the trust of the coach to believe in it and go from there.

J.R. was a kid that came to us in the same class as Russell. He kicked around... played linebacker, thought about tight end, and finally told him his position was defensive tackle. By his senior year he was a leader of our football team.

He went down with an injury his senior year when we were devastated there on defense and missed a lot of playing time. But to go to the NFL, it reminds me of R.J. Mattes' dad who played for us here at Virginia. He actually went to Seattle and played offensive tackle out there. He's made the conversion and worked extremely hard.

Everybody knows Russell's story, so it's a great story for all four of those kids. They've all persevered and they all had to fight through different things to get to where they are.

Looking back do you wish you had done anything differently with the way that ended?
No, I'm not clairvoyant. I can't tell the future. The thing that you do is you make decisions on the facts that you have at that time. Certainly with the facts and situation the way that it was, we parted on great terms.

Russell went his way, and we had to make a decision about what's best for NC State. We made that decision and went forward.

It worked out for both kids. They both got to compete against each other and play this year on the field. It was a great opportunity for Russell and a great opportunity for Michael. We were lucky to have those kids for the five years we had them at State. People ought to be happy about that.

Were you in jeopardy of losing Glennon at one point?
That goes back to all the facts that were on the table at that point.

Michael would have graduated that year. He could move on if he had wanted to that year. It was all part of the decision making process that had to happen.

You could have one quarterback, you could have two quarterbacks, or you could have no quarterbacks.

He wasn't heavily-recruited. When did you know you had something special?
Well, you knew you had a special young man. Russell some day might be President if he wants to be. He has great people skills, great leadership, and great personality.

We ended up redshirting him. If we thought he'd have been that kind of quarterback with our quarterback situation we probably would have played him our first year there because we certainly could have used someone with his ability.

Glennon's true freshman year and Russell's redshirt freshman year they went down to the last scrimmage in preseason camp before we made the decision to go with Russell.

Russell is an individual just like the other four guys. They've worked so hard at getting to where they wanted to get to. That's what is so excited about coaching and being around kids like Nate, Steven, J.R., and Russell.

The best thing that happened to Russell might have been Dana Bible... he's had Tim Hasselbeck, he's had Brian St. Pierre. Both of those guys have started NFL games. Everybody knows Matt Ryan and what he's done. He had both Russ and Mike at State... what he's done with those kids at quarterback, to have five or six guys go on to the NFL and start at quarterback is pretty special. Dana is a pretty special coach.

Have you had a chance to catch up with Russell?
Yep, I've texted those guys, all of them. Some of them have replied and some haven't as of yet, but they will.

How is your relationship with Russell? It's amicable right?
Yes, it's fine. I have no problems. It's always been good. Maybe some people think it hadn't been, but certainly I think it's been fine.

I texted him and asked him for tickets when he came to the Redskins and then texted I was just kidding him, stuff like that. We're good.

Were you surprised at how quickly Russell has had success?
I don't know if you expect any of these guys that have won Super Bowls to get there and win when they get there because it's so hard to get there.

It takes a lot of perseverance, sweat and hard work, but you need a little bit of luck and take advantage of those situations.

J.R. is in the same situation. He and Russell went in together... they all landed in a good situation, worked hard to make the most of it, and all contributed to the success of the Seahawks.

He's not the tallest of quarterbacks... what makes him special despite his size?
Dana Bible really does a great job with quarterbacks. He's been in the NFL he's coordinated there, he's done those things.

We had a friendship with Doug Flutie when we were at Boston College and we had conversations with Doug that I related to Russell through the about that.

When the New Orleans Saints won the super bowl, I think that's when Russell was actually convinced in his mind that a quarterback of his height could have the opportunity to win the Super Bowl.

Drew Brees broke the mold through the 6'5, powerful arm guys to win the Super Bowl.

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