Accuracy of Russell Wilson’s commencement speech questioned


Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson was the commencement speaker at the University of Wisconsin last weekend, and Wilson was apparently his usual smiley and cheery self.

Unless you ask some people associated with North Carolina State University. They think Wilson fudged the truth when speaking to graduates of Wisconsin, where Wilson played his final year of college football. He played football and baseball for three years at North Carolina State before transferring.

As explained in a column Monday by Will Brinson, Wilson told stories of his baseball and football careers and his transfer from NC State during his speech and discussed how then-football coach Tom O’Brien and baseball coach Elliott Avent handled his situation. One of the all-time NFL underdog stories, Wilson talked about being counted out and bouncing back — all things he’s done, and all things that play well in a commencement setting.

Those things just didn’t play well with everyone. Wilson’s former NC State teammate, Kalani Heppe, wrote on Facebook Sunday, “80 percent of the s–t Russell said in his speech didn’t even happen.”

Heppe called Wilson a “me” player, among other colorful things. The headline of Brinson’s column calls Wilson’s memory “conveniently fuzzy.” The full text of Wilson’s speech is here.

To make a long story a little shorter, Wilson had one year of eligibility left and Mike Glennon had two. O’Brien basically had to choose one quarterback, and he chose the one who hadn’t already been drafted by a Major League Baseball team and the one who had two seasons left.

Wilson went to Wisconsin and played well, and later won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks. O’Brien eventually got fired. But how it all went down may not have matched the way Wilson explained it in his commencement speech as he talked about overcoming adversity and provided other words of inspiration.

As for what the truth is, we may never know. Joe Giglio of the Raleigh News & Observer asked O’Brien for a response to Wilson’s speech, and O’Brien texted, “Good for him.” Wilson keeps winning and has a track record of believing what he says, even if it seems a little outrageous, so it probably won’t be long before he’s speaking in public again.

111 responses to “Accuracy of Russell Wilson’s commencement speech questioned

  1. Kalani Heppe left State in 2007. Wilson started in 2008. This guy is full of it.

    Wilson was voted team captain by his teammates in 2010 at NC State, 2011 at Wisconsin, and 2013-2015 in Seattle.

    Use some common sense, obviously this Heppe guy is talking out of his a**

  2. I thought we are going to take the year off from being accurate and fair. It’s an election year.

    Anyhow, Wilson has an excuse, he’s in love.

  3. Wilson did pour it on a lil heavy during the obrien quotes. to go there 1 year, then go back and say all that… for the Super Bowl comment, why not just admit he should have audibled to a run.

  4. If he can make up the history as he goes and fools himself into believing it, he just may have what it takes for politics..

  5. Some people like to embellish. Those people tend to believe in concussion juice, invisible men, astrological signs, and other things that just make them the quirky and obnoxious characters we love to hate.

  6. I graduated from UW-Madison this semester and I thought some things in his speech sounded like he made them up because they sounded good and motivational-ish.

  7. A shiny trophy for anyone who knows who Kalani Heppe is, and double points if you know what position he played as Wilsons teammate.
    Bonus question: How many millions more does Wilson make than Heppe?

  8. Shuttle shot at Wilson in the title, “accuracy”.

    They are just saying that because Wilson didn’t complete his first pass in the last SB he played in until over 27 min into the game, and he was off target on the last pass of the game. Not fair.

  9. His minor errors of remembering exactly what inning he was put into the game or the specific number of times at bat for a season does not negate his “message” to the graduates. The conversation he described with his coach may be 100% on target and is certainly how he felt it went. The fact that he had to transfer and his coach wasn’t going to play him is not disputed.

    Not sure why such a negative slant to his speech of optimism and overcoming the odds through work and perseverance?

  10. Oh, lighten up; it’s a commencement speech; except for the jokes, no graduate remembers anything a commencement speaker says, anyway.

  11. Who cares what Kalani Heppe–whoever that is–
    thinks about Russell Wilson? Some stupid old grudge?

  12. The only reason people are so butt hurt about everything nowadays is the fact that people are so insecure about everything, and it is all derivative of people being uncomfortable in their own skin.

    The fact that people would legit care about anything in this article is a whole different subject, which I am much too uncomfortable even beginning to process mentally.

    I mean, the guy didn’t even put together a correct sentence, and the University PAID for his tuition, meanwhile, I keep having to take a semester off every year because I have to pay for college, myself, on a pretty decent 15 dollar an hour hourly wage.

    These idiots disgust me. Barf….

  13. And now he’s putting the finishing touches on a second-place dynasty.


  14. Hey, the guy thinks the Earth is 4000 years old, so how things actually happened doesn’t matter as long as they fit his story about it.

  15. So basically what Wilson said was true… He wanted to start and had one year of Eligibility, but the Coach choose the player with 2 years. Coaches always choose the best player available, hence the Years a player has left is irrelevant. Anyone who is so angry at a little hyperbole need to calm down. Wilson is right and O’Brien is wrong.

  16. Just like everyone in sports Wilson will be judged accordingly by his play. If he keeps winning he’ll be given a pass on some of the weird behavior. If he doesn’t he’ll be labeled by this stuff. Brett Farve was a gunslinger and was loved for it while he won. When he threw late INT in the playoffs he was trashed for it. Look at RG3, he sucks so he gets trashed for the stupid things he says. If he was good it wouldn’t be such a story. As a hawks fan I hope he keeps winning.

  17. I used to be a big Wilson fan but every story I read about him these days makes me dislike him more and more

  18. Let’s see:

    Russell Wilson was named first team all ACC Quarterback while he was at North Carolina State–the first time in the history of the conference that a freshman had been named.

    Wilson set the NCAA record for the most consecutive passes without an INT while at NC State.

    Wilson won the Champs Sports Bowl while at NC State. He led the ACC in passing yards while at NC State.

    And we are supposed to believe that Coach O’Brien decided to go with a different QB because he had 1 more year of eligibility left? Uh huh. Yeah, that’s credible.

    Wilson described what happened exactly right and the NC State sports fans and students didn’t like it.

    We do know that Coach O’Brien got fired. That’s factual.

    And we do know that Wilson went to Wisconsin and repeated his successes–that is factual. And we do know that Wilson went to the NFL, started in his first season, has gone to the playoffs 4 straight times in 4 years, has gone to two Super Bowls, and won one–that is factual.

    If he misstated how many at-bats he had or what inning he batted in during a game, big whoop. He hit the game-winning home run which seems a bit more important.

  19. And somehow, this will manage to ruin some people’s vibe. They will turn angry. Send tweets. And write Internet articles.

    I say life is to short to care about what an athlete says. At an even you weren’t even at. About things that have nothing to do with you.

  20. Wilson has been the most important player in seahawks history. And I say that with all due respect to Walter Jones, Steve Largent, and Cortez Kennedy. But even I must say that as great of a person he is on and off the field, sometimes you have to question some things he says. God talking to him, nano bubbles, possibly this topic….

    He may be saying the truth but the older I’ve grown the more I’ve learned to think for myself and not just have blind faith and follow the group thinking.

    I would question this simply because why would a coach not want a player of his caliber on his team at all? He’s not going to become a distraction, he’s a team guy, and he gives you a better chance of winning. The only reason I could think of why a coach would say this is if he promised Glennon something and didn’t want to go back on his word.

  21. He’s enough of a legitimate underdog story to where he doesn’t need to embellish facts to add manufactured drama, yet he can’t help himself. Does every day of his life have to be a scene lifted straight out of a Disney movie? Apparently so. Next year’s commencement speech will involve him spinning a yarn about his best friend Brian Piccolo, and the bond they forged in football. Or the time he was playing for the New York Knights, and after being left on the bench for days, his manager “Pop” finally put him in the game, and he literally knocked the cover off of the ball.

    By the way, Russ, a word of advice to you and Ciara….we already have a descriptive phrase for “born again virgins”…’s “not virgins”. A guy who has been married and divorced and a chick who has a kid with some 2nd rate rapper probably need to shut their pieholes about virginity.

  22. I’m not surprised at all that Wilson stretched the truth in his speech. He has a little Barney Fife in him, from what I’ve seen.

  23. So being a 3rd round draft pick makes one an “all-time underdog story”? Give me a break.

    As a Skins fan, I hardly root for Tony Romo and the Cowboys. But he was an undrafted FA who’s gone on to become one of the top QB’s in the game. That’s an underdog story.

  24. You say “They” but really just the one guy.

    Anyway, this is a great article showing how journalists love it when someone with a clean image has a chance to be taken down a peg or two or more.

    How would that guy know what was said to Wilson anyway?

  25. Why wouldnt Russell Wilson be entitled to his version of events? Also, why would he leave, go play minor league baseball, turn down baseball money, and play another year for another college team if his version was 80 percent bs? It does seem like he endured a lot of bs,

  26. I tend to believe Wilson over a WR I’ve never heard of nor have most people who didn’t go to NC state or aren’t huge fans of NC State.

    It’s also telling that Obrien wasn’t around at NC State much longer after making the poor decision to go with Glennon over Wilson.

    I do think Wilson was more forced out of NC State rather than the other way around.

    As for the “me”‘player, I think it’s been proven over a decade plus of playing in sports in high school, college and the pros that Wilson is “less” of a “me” player than most players who play college or pro sports.

  27. They should’ve played tom Jones music and had the Carlton Banks of the NFL do the Carlton dance before expanding on his lies.

  28. He also provided each Wisconsin graduate with a case of magic water and two cases for those whose careers might have concussion risks.

  29. Wilson is one of those people where “what you see is not what you get”.

  30. Oh Russell, you stretcher of the truth!!! Mr. Tall Tales Wilson. lmao!

  31. You internet trolls are funny. Imagine your lives played out on the public stage and every little quirk of your character endlessly delved into and written about and talked about constantly on sports and social media. Hypocrites.

  32. “Wilson went to Wisconsin and played well, and later won a Super Bowl with the Seahawks”.
    This is the statement that really matters. The purpose of a commencement speaker is to uplift the graduation class and give them a burst of energy to go fourth and have good lives and become productive citizens in society. That is what Russell Wilson did. Being dissected on social media, is not relevant. People can say anything. Nothing can diminish Wilson’s accomplishments from being a 3rd round draft choice to one of the top QBs in the NFL.

  33. He outplayed EVERY other QB in the league last year from a stat standpoint, has taken his team deep for years running,brought Seattle a Lombardi and nearly two , Is flat amazing in the community and has a hotter girlfriend than most of us will ever get a look at and has never been in any kind of hot water…..what do you haters want from this young man? The envy does not look good on you…

  34. Wilson was a red shirt freshman QB when this guy graduated from NC State. But he’s an expert on what happened 3 years after he graduated?

  35. Without any other support to the claims of this person people are jumping on the “Down with Wilson” train. Those people were already down on Wilson, but not for this. Some other reason, and that is why they believe this one person over Wilson.

    They just want it to be true that Wilson is a bad person and any claim that supports that they will believe without question.

  36. Wilson may be flighty but as long as he doesn’t harm anyone and keep winning games for the Seahawk’s i’ll overlook the B.S. Same as any Bronco’s, Patriots or 49’er’s fan………………

  37. It is not just this one guy questioning him. If you read the article and view the links it helps. He has numerous legitimate people calling out his story telling around NC.

    Why did he mimic Tom O’Brien with a Southern Accent when he’s not from the south and is far from having one.

    He’s been at the very least bending the truth about his desire to be QB first when it was well known baseball was his first priority until it was apparent he would not make it.

  38. Wait, … Kalani Heppe? As Kobe would say, who is this guy and why would he think he would be privy to O’Brien’s high-level decision-making, let alone details of a private meeting between Wilson and the head coach.

    He may have issues with Wilson, but his account is true and well chronicled in the Raleigh News and Journal. I can say that at the time there was speculation as to how O’Brien would handle the situation, I wrote several comments regarding the impending & unceremonious dumping Wilson, for Glennon.

    The facts are the facts. Popular sentiment was tainted, as they painted Wilson as selfish for wanting to play baseball in the spring, rather than practice football, full time.

    My argument was that, NC State was willing to boot the best QB in the ACC, for a player who has proved he could not beat Wilson out for the position, even with Wilson skipping spring ball. It was an absurdity and I’m sure the News and Observer archives, will support Wilson on this.

  39. It was confirmed that Wilson was a “me” player 2 years ago in the playoffs. He goes out and plays one of the worst games any QB has played in the playoffs, the Packers gift wrap the game for Seattle, they win and Wilson cries like a baby because he was just bailed out of taking all the criticism….again. Then in the very next game, he doesn’t complete a pass until 27 minutes into the game, then promptly costs his team the title and walks off like nothing happened.

    Not to mention that he single-handedly lost the game against the Panthers, and put up a pitiful performance in the game before against the Vikings and was bailed out…once again.

    But hey, he put’s up nice stats against bad teams.

  40. I get some people don’t like Russell Wilson but what specifically did he supposedly say that was incorrect? He clearly had a falling out with O’Brien who wanted his guy Glennon to be the starter. He clearly left for Wisconsin. And those are really the only points needed for his graduation story to be substantially correct.

    He also was team captain at both NC State and the Badger team he had just joined so the “me first” complaints seem to be either overblown or he somehow fooled two college teams and an NFL team.

  41. It is so pathetic that Seahawk fans must attack Kalani Heppe and his life’s position merely because he dared express his opinion and personal account regarding Wilson while cannonizing and legitimizing Wilson just because he has had success on the football field.

    That is so dumb.

    According to Wilson’s unthinking Seahawk fans, guys with successes in life are pilars of virtue to be completely believed such as Donald Trump, womanizing Bill Clinton who erased regulatory laws to give us America’s financial meltdown and ruin lives, and Arms Dealer/War Mongerer billionaire George Soros.

    For the record, I believe both Wilson and Heppe’s accounts. Wilson was discarded by O’Brien and Wilson is a me first phony who can play footbal, but was a failure in baseball because he could never hit the curveball.

  42. Why all the hate for Wilson? He is one of the best QBs in the NFL and but for a few teams, any team would love to have this guy on their team. Not only that but at his age he has plenty to accomplish in front of him.

  43. Stop bashing Heffe. At least he put his name to the quotes. Same with O’Brien. Isn’t that what PFT readers claim people should do? So what if Wilson has had a better career than Heffe. It still doesn’t change the fact that Wilson is a liar and hears voices.

    He and Timmy would make millions bilking the easily duped with speaking tours across the Bible Belt.

  44. I think Wilson is overrated. But this Heppe kid is talking about the 17 year old Wilson that he spent maybe 6 months with. Yeah, just because he hasn’t matured in 10 years doesn’t mean Wilson couldn’t. I also don’t as a senior OL he was so close to a true freshman QB to know what the cosches told him in private or QB meetings.

    Sounds like the kid is bitter Wilson matured and has gone on to bigger and better things.

  45. Here is some truth. Russell has had more help in his 4 years than any other qb in nfl history, but has only managed one sb. So far he has only followed in the footsteps of Trent Dilfer. I haven’t seen him do anything impressive in his nfl career. Run the ball, play action pass…easy when your running game is effective. If he can do it with a 15th ranked defense and running game, then he’ll be considered good.

  46. He was hired to speak at a commencement.

    Let him spew all of the clichéd platitudes he wants. Who cares?

    He still threw “the pick” and hasn’t bounced back from that yet. He may never bounce back from THAT, so go easy on him.
    PLus all of his “fans” just started watching football like 3 years ago so that must be kinda tough

  47. I’m sure that Heppe knows more about Wilson, than you know about Heppe.
    Wilson’s success does not automatically make him more credible than Heppe.

  48. Russell Wilson be lyinnnnnnn…

    But, I thought we already knew this. I can’t even call him fake because the facade is so obvious. He’s just out to trying to be a walking billboard–as clean and dry as it gets. Bomani Jones still clowns him when he kept repeating that he was a “kid from a small town of Richmond, Virginia.” Richmond ain’t no small town! It used to be the nation’s capital.

  49. Here is some truth. Russell has had more help in his 4 years than any other qb in nfl history, but has only managed one sb. So far he has only followed in the footsteps of Trent Dilfer. I haven’t seen him do anything impressive in his nfl career. Run the ball, play action pass…easy when your running game is effective. If he can do it with a 15th ranked defense and running game, then he’ll be considered good.

    Here is another fact, the Seahawks have played in 22 games where Wilson has had a QBR lower than 50, they won 15 of those games, by far the most of any team in the NFL. Pair that with his 10-17 record when the defense allows 20+ points and 1-13 when they allow 25+ points and it goes to show how overrated of a QB he is. No other QB in the NFL has had more help than Wilson.

    Facts, not opinions

  50. Another comment thread that proves that it indeed is lonely at the top. Why so jealous?

    The Seattle franchise has been in the NFL for 40 years with 1 SB win, 15 playoff appearances, 9 division titles, and have 3 players representing the franchise in the hall of fame…..and somehow people are jealous? OK.

    Fact, not opinions

  51. scmems07 says:
    May 17, 2016 1:36 PM

    A good game manager would have already gotten at least 2 SBs with this team.

  52. The Seattle franchise has been in the NFL for 40 years with 1 SB win [ out of three appearances], [three conference champions,] 15 playoff appearances, 9 division titles, and have 3 players representing the franchise in the hall of fame…..and somehow people are jealous? OK.

    Fact, not opinions


    I hope you realize that’s not bad for an expansion team, especially with the dark era they had with the one bad owner.

    Ask the other expansion team if they would like the same success.

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