North Carolina State will salute two of its most celebrated former football players, quarterback Russell Wilson and defensive lineman Mario Williams, by honoring their jerseys during the spring game on April 12 (for Wilson) and a to-be-determined home game in the 2014 season (for Williams).
Per John Taylor of College Football Talk, the school released an official statement announcing the news, but noted that their numbers could still be worn with a commemorative patch by future Wolfpack players:
NCSU announced via a press release that the reigning Super Bowl-winning quarterback, along with former defensive standout Mario Williams, will have their respective jerseys—No. 16 for the former, No. 9 for the latter—honored to commemorate their Wolfpack playing careers. The release stated that the jersey numbers “will continue to be worn by standout Wolfpack players.” However, “[i]n the future, any player designated by the head coach to wear those numbers will also wear a patch honoring Wilson or Williams.”
Wilson played his first three seasons at North Carolina State before transferring to Wisconsin for a graduate year and leading the Badgers to the Rose Bowl. In his time with the Wolfpack, he completed 58 percent of his 1,180 passes for 8,545 yards, 76 touchdowns and 26 interceptions.
According to J.P. Giglio of The News & Observer, a baseball-related schism developed between Wilson—who had just been drafted by the Colorado Rockies—and then-head coach Tom O'Brien, which led to the release from his scholarship and transfer to Wisconsin. However, in a quote the school released in Tuesday's statement, Wilson made it sound like there were no hard feelings between he and the university.
His exact words, per Taylor:
This is truly an amazing honor and I am looking forward to being back in Raleigh and Carter-Finley Stadium. My experience at NC State was an amazing one playing football and baseball but also accomplishing my goal of graduating in three years. My memories of playing as the quarterback for the Wolfpack are never-ending and the roar of the Wolfpack Nation still rings in my ear from memorable wins against FSU and UNC!
I learned the value of great leadership, ultimate sacrifice, and the relentless belief that hard work pays off. I am grateful for all of my amazing teammates and players past, present, and future. I can still taste and sense the blood, sweat, and tears we all sacrificed to be successful.
Williams, meanwhile, started during his freshman year in 2003 and eventually become one of the better college defenders of the decade. He had 14.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss in 2005, his final season, before being selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft by the Houston Texans—one spot ahead of USC running back Reggie Bush.
He and Wilson are arguably two of the best players to ever suit up in Raleigh, and they have continued their success at the highest level, combining to make five Pro Bowls in nine aggregate seasons.
Wilson, of course, also just led the Seattle Seahawks to a 43-8 rout of the Denver Broncos in Super Bowl XLVIII.
Both men are wildly deserving of this honor.
Follow Brian Leigh on Twitter: @BLeighDAT