Wolfpack’s Russell Wilson just one of ACC’s dual-sport football players

Sammy Batten
The Fayetteville Observer

Russell Wilson is most well known as the quarterback for N.C.

State’s football team.

But every spring and summer, Wilson swaps his shoulder pads and

mouthpiece for a glove and bat.

Wilson is one of several high-profile Atlantic Coast Conference football players who also excel at

another sport.

Clemson’s football roster

features quarterback Kyle Parker, who doubles as an outfielder on the baseball

team. Receiver Jacoby Ford is the defending NCAA champion in the indoor 60-yard

dash, while running back C.J. Spiller was 13th nationally last year in the

100-meter dash.

Miami wide receivers Travis Benjamin and Davon Johnson, along with

cornerback Brandon Harris competed in track last season for the Hurricanes.

Junior defensive back Corey Nelms is the defending ACC indoor 60-meter hurdle champion and was runner-up

in the 110-meter hurdles outdoors.

All those players are attending school on football scholarships. But ACC football coaches say they don’t mind sharing their

athletes with other teams, as long as the player keeps his grades up.

“I’ve had a number of football players who have run track, and I just tell

them they have to keep their GPA (grade point average) over 2.5,” Maryland’s

Ralph Friedgen said. “Plus, with running track, it does add some confidence to

them because they’re running against talented people. So I don’t have a problem

with it.”

Duke coach David Cutcliffe has dealt with numerous dual-sport football players during his career. Most

notable among those were Olympic sprinter/hurdler Willie Gault and major league

baseball player Todd Helton.

Gault played wide receiver at Tennessee while Cutcliffe was offensive

coordinator, while Helton was a quarterback for the Volunteers.

Can’t pick just one

“I’ve had numerous football-track athletes, and numerous football-baseball athletes, and they’ve

been very successful,” Cutcliffe said. “I used to love to play all sports

myself. I would have hated it if someone made me pick one in high school.”

Most players who want to try two sports in college make that part of the

deal when they’re being recruited.

Wilson made that clear to former N.C. State head coach Chuck Amato when

he was being recruited out of Collegiate High in Richmond, Va. Current Wolfpack

head coach Tom O’Brien has lived up to that promise, allowing Wilson to split

time between football and baseball

during the spring.

“We’ve certainly had to make some concessions,” O’Brien said. “But that’s

a promise that was made to Russell when he was recruited and we’re going to keep

it. It really hasn’t been that much of an issue.”

Selected by Orioles

Wilson, who was named the ACC’s first-team quarterback as a redshirt freshman in

2008, hit .236 with the baseball team last spring after returning from a knee

injury. He’s on schedule to receive his degree from N.C. State in May and will

be eligible for the major league baseball draft as well.

The Baltimore Orioles selected Wilson in the 41st round of the 2006

baseball draft out of high school. With a solid junior year at N.C. State, he

could go much higher next June.

But even then Wilson may not be willing to give up both sports.

“My dream is to play football and baseball in the pros, and be a hall of

famer in both,” he said recently.