May 21, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. -
In the aftermath of Philip Rivers’ selection as a future NC State Athletics Hall of Fame quarterback, Russell Wilson’s illustrious rookie season leading the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs, and Mike Glennon’s recent selection in the NFL draft, there’s an excellent chance that the Wolfpack may well have three former quarterbacks starting in the NFL in the future.
Those three talented signal-callers have etched their names in the Wolfpack record books and have provided Wolfpack Nation with plenty of fireworks during their nine combined years starting under center. Not even the top-ranked teams in collegiate football have produced leadership of that caliber at the quarterback position during that time.
Looking back, Wolfpack fans may indeed have to pinch themselves when re-living the great times Rivers, Wilson and Glennon have given them at Carter-Finley Stadium over two coaching regimes.
Those Pack faithful were instrumental in the school’s commitment to building a championship Division I program amid a $100 million renovation and construction of football facilities (Carter-Finley Stadium, the Murphy Football Center, the Dail Practice Complex and Vaughn Towers).
Rivers was the cornerstone of program building under former coach Chuck Amato -- jump-starting the enthusiasm of supporters, which translated into the Wolfpack Club’s ambitious fund-raising project.
Recruited by former head coach Mike O’Cain and assistant Joe Pate, Amato sealed the deal and Rivers left his Alabama ties amid little fanfare – graduating from high school early and enrolling early in the spring semester prior to his freshman campaign.
Rivers arrived in Raleigh eager to learn, and Amato provided one of the best quarterback coaches in the nation when Norm Chow agreed to become the team’s offensive coordinator during Rivers’ first season.
Who could have predicted at that point that the young gunslinger would go on to establish an NCAA record of 51 consecutive starts, breaking many ACC and NC State passing records en route to the most illustrious career ever for an NC State quarterback.
With Amato bringing in an excellent supporting cast of offensive firepower, Chow took advantage of Rivers’ keen football mind (his father was a career prep coach) and taught him the same fundamentals he used to produce a string of pro quarterbacks at Brigham Young.
Even though he left after just one season, Chow had given Rivers all he needed to lead the Wolfpack to four consecutive bowls. Rivers went on to be named 2000 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2003 ACC Player of the Year, and the MVP in three bowl games, while compiling 13,484 passing yards and throwing 95 touchdown passes. He led the Pack to four straight winning seasons.
After Rivers, a first-round NFL draft choice, departed to the San Diego Chargers in 2004, State fans had to wait until 2008 for another elite quarterback to emerge. Amato recruited Wilson, promising him he could also play baseball. The only problem – Amato was fired after a 3-9 season in 2006 as Tom O’Brien moved from Boston College to take over the State coaching reins.
O’Brien had campaigned for the NC State job – mainly because he couldn’t get over the electric atmosphere at the beautiful, renovated Carter-Finley Stadium in 2006 when the Pack rallied to beat his visiting Eagles in the last seconds on a touchdown pass by quarterback Daniel Evans.
Wilson redshirted in 2007 as Evans lead an offense with a myriad of injuries to a 5-7 season. However, the Pack did beat rival North Carolina at Carter-Finley in a wild, exciting 28-27 victory. As the Pack’s starter, Wilson would never lose to the Tar Heels in three seasons and played brilliantly in those rival games.
O’Brien and offensive coordinator Dana Bible, who had developed Atlanta Falcon starting quarterback Matt Ryan at Boston College, used their skills to guide Wilson’s development.
Wilson was injured in the 2008 season opener at South Carolina and returned to lead the Pack to a 6-6 regular-season finish and berth in the Papajohns.com Bowl, which the Pack lost to Rutgers, 29-23, after he suffered another injury and couldn’t play in the second half.
After a 5-7 season in 2009, Wilson was brilliant leading the Pack to a 9-4 record in 2010. At one stretch, he set what was then an NCAA record for consecutive passes thrown without an interception.
In three seasons in Raleigh, Wilson threw for 8,545 passing yards and 76 touchdowns. He also played three summers of baseball – two under contract with the Colorado Rockies. He transferred to Wisconsin after earning his degree from NC State and entered graduate school and led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl.
Glennon, who was recruited by O’Brien and was the number three-rated high school quarterback in the country, redshirted his freshman season and played understudy to Wilson for two years.
He passed for 7,411 yards and 63 touchdowns in his two seasons as the starting field general – leading the Wolfpack to 8-5 and 7-6 seasons, two bowl games and an MVP award in the 31-24 triumph over Louisville in the 2011 Belk Bowl.
Glennon engineered the greatest comeback in NC State football history against Maryland in 2011. Throwing five touchdown passes and scoring one himself, the 6-foot-7 quarterback guided the Pack from 27 points down in the second half in a 56-41 victory.
Even though Rivers and Wilson had plenty of skeptics concerning their NFL potential, the duo came through with flying colors in their initial seasons. And Rivers continued by earning pro bowl honors while continuing to accumulate thousands of yards in the airways.
Hall of Fame quarterback Sonny Jurgensen, in a recent NFL Films clip, equated himself with Rivers when it came to NFL critics. Jurgensen always contended he didn’t gain his NFL Hall of Fame status by throwing with his bulging stomach. He emphasized that Rivers delivered the pigskin in precise fashion despite the unorthodox delivery pointed out by his critics.
The skeptics also believed Wilson was too short to effectively throw over the taller linemen of the NFL. As a rookie, he did just that by guiding the Seahawks to the playoffs, including a road win at Washington.
Now Glennon tries his hand at landing an NFL starting job. He was drafted in the third round by Tampa Bay in April, and quickly made an impression upon the coaching staff.
“He fits the things we’re trying to do – run the football, play-action pass, throw the ball down the field like we did this past season,” said head coach Greg Schiano. “Competition and quality depth across our roster is critical for us to be a championship team. I think that applies to every position. I’m looking forward to it; I think that’s going to make us a better football team.”
By George Cox, GoPack.com