Mike Glennon spent his first three football seasons at N.C. State patiently playing behind stat-sheet-stuffing quarterback Russell Wilson. An Elite 11 signal caller in high school, Glennon was getting a bit antsy toward the end of his redshirt sophomore year. He wanted to play. He was ready to play.
Wilson, though, wasn’t prepared to announce any football intentions for his senior season, as he was still trying to decide if he would return to the Wolfpack or continue chasing his dream of reaching the major leagues.
A farmhand of the Colorado Rockies for two seasons, Wilson’s struggles hitting the baseball in A ball mounted, and rumors whirled he was heading back to Raleigh.
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At that point, however, N.C. State coach Tom O’Brien had decided that Glennon would start, and Wilson, who had already graduated, left to play his final season at Wisconsin. Yet, Glennon still couldn’t escape Wilson’s shadow.
Wilson posted huge numbers last fall for the Badgers, whose uniforms are so similar to the Wolfpack’s that if you squinted your eyes it was almost as if Wilson never left.
NCSU started poorly and Wilson was generating plenty of national hype, certainly more than he did when at N.C. State. There wasn’t much Glennon could do to make folks zero in on him without mentioning his predecessor.
That’s all changed, though. Glennon can finally flap his wings without clanking into Wilson comparisons or simple mentions. He’s free to be the QB his fiber can muster.
“I’m ready,” the 6-foot-6 senior said. “I’m ready for us to have a big year.”
Like Wilson, Glennon speaks about the team first and almost always. But perhaps unlike Wilson, who eventually made it more about himself than it should have been by annually holding the program hostage, Glennon’s sincerity isn’t questioned.
Ask him about individual honors and Glennon touts the team’s terrific secondary or its young-but-talented wide receivers. Ask him about throwing touchdown passes and he praises his offensive line, which he defends without hesitation.
And ask Glennon about what he needs to work on, he’s quick to rattle off the obvious.
“I have to throw,” he said. “I have to improve on my mechanics, my footwork, my accuracy, and everything will be fine.”
Glennon truly believes everything will be fine because he’s supremely confident in his teammates and the Wolfpack’s system. If there’s any doubt within, Glennon does a masterful job of keeping it squelched.
And really, how much is there to suppress?
Glennon was fourth in the ACC in passing yards last fall with 3,054 yards. He was fifth in passing efficiency, completing 62.5 percent of his attempts and tossing31 touchdowns to go against 12 interceptions.
O’Brien believes Glennon really came into his own late in the remarkable comeback over Maryland to close the regular season and clinch a bowl bid, and in the Belk Bowl win over Louisville.
The Pack turned a 41-14 third-quarter deficit to Maryland into a 56-41 victory, courtesy of five fourth-quarter touchdowns. Glennon threw two touchdowns passes and plunged across the goal line from a yard out for another score in the final period. He had five scoring tosses on the day. Against Louisville, Glennon passed for 264 yards and three touchdowns.
“The thing that we like most is that he finished the year strong and really used the time from the last game against Maryland,” O’Brien said. “I think he threw five touchdown passes in the fourth quarter to the bowl game. He got better in the bowl game.”
David Amerson is a junior cornerback for the Wolfpack and happened to lead the nation in interceptions a year ago with 13. He faces Glennon just about every day, and if anyone knows about the Virginia native, it’s Amerson and the rest of NCSU’s secondary.
“Mike is a great player,” Amerson said. “He goes up against a big-time secondary every day in practice and gets the best of us frequently.”
The challenge this coming season is that the Wolfpack aren’t loaded with experienced receivers. It’s a concern, but not for Glennon.
“We knew Tobias (Palmer) could play with what he did last year,” Glennon said following the spring game in April. “I think Quintin (Payton) and Bryan Underwood really stepped up to the occasion, they really improved over the spring and are going to be good.
“Rashard Smith on the defensive end switching over, he’s still learning but he goes up and gets the ball really well. And the two young guys, once they figure it out they’re going to be really good.”
See, receiver is an issue for the Pack, but Glennon is a glass-half-full person and player. He’s also a leader, and leaders don’t complain as much as they inspire.