Russell Wilson gave a much-discussed commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin over the weekend. While the message of the speech had to do with never giving up and the hardships Wilson endured while pursuing his NFL dreams, Kalani Heppe was not amused. Heppe is a former teammate of Wilson’s at N.C. State and he didn’t hold back when absolutely blasting his memory of what happened there.
Wilson took shots aimed directly at former N.C. State head coach Tom O’Brien and that didn’t set well with his former teammate. Heppe let loose in an expletive-filled rant on his Facebook page. I’ll let his words do the talking:
"“I think it is pretty well known how much I despise Tom O’Brien on a molecular level… However… Getting rid of Russell Wilson was the one admirable thing he did during his tenure at state. 80% of the sh*t that Russell said in his speech didn’t even happen, it was really hard for Russell to field punts and play safety when his head was firmly lodged up all the offensive coaches ass on a daily basis. Russell was a great player, but he was a “me” player, unable to put his team before himself and his “illustrious” baseball career at state. F*** Russell, us real State people still have (Philip) Rivers to claim.”"
Yikes. That’s a pretty brutal assessment of Wilson’s time with the Wolfpack. But it appears Heppe isn’t the only one who found Russell’s speech to be a near-complete work of fiction.
CBS Sports’s Will Brinson also took umbrage with Wilson’s characterization of what happened back then. In reality, Wilson was off playing minor league baseball and O’Brien hadn’t been told whether or not he was coming back to play another season of football. So O’Brien moved on to his backup, Mike Glennon, who also was eligible to be a graduate transfer if he hadn’t won the starting job. Glennon had two years of eligibility left to Wilson’s one. O’Brien basically had to decide whether or not to wait endlessly for Wilson’s decision or go with Glennon.
Basically the other side of the story is that Wilson’s flirtation with baseball cost him his spot under center for the Wolfpack because the team had to start planning for the next season. Yes, Wilson was better than Glennon and it was a gamble by O’Brien, but Wilson’s speech made it sound like the whole thing was O’Brien’s fault.
Wilson also made wildly false claims about his baseball career at N.C. State too. As Brinson points out, Wilson claimed “I had about 450 to 500 at-bats” during his freshman and sophomore years, then dropped off during his junior year as the MLB draft approached. That’s completely false, as he had 71 at bats as a freshman, 72 as a sophomore and 98 as a junior. So yeah, in other words it’s a complete lie.
Russell’s “no one believed in me” speech was flowery and feel good-y, but it appears it was far from the truth of what actually happened.