There have been a few college quarterbacks that have come through the Colorado Rockies system, and many of them have played in with the Dust Devils. Rockies' first baseman Todd Helton never played in Tri-City, but he was an outstanding quarterback at Tennessee before an injury paved the way for another pretty good signal-caller by the name of Peyton Manning.
Here's a strange coincidence: Seth Smith played in the outfield for the Dust Devils in 2004, but before that he backed up Peyton's brother Eli as a QB at the University of Mississippi. Now Smith and Helton — who both played under the same football coach, David Cutcliffe — are teammates on the Rockies.
Current Tri-City starting pitcher Josh Sullivan also pulled double-duty in college. He played for Auburn, backing up current NFL QB Jason Campbel before deciding baseball was the way to go.
But Russell Wilson could be the best of the bunch when it comes to college quarterbacks that have come to the Tri-City Dust Devils. A quarterback about to begin his senior season at North Carolina State, Wilson has risen to the level of play set just a few years before him by Philip Rivers, who now leads the San Diego Chargers as one of the top QBs in the NFL.
But for now, Wilson can't wait to begin his pro baseball career after being selected by the Rockies in the fourth round. He is listed as an outfielder on the Dust Devils roster, but he has been seen taking infield practice this week at second base.
"I'm not really worried about (football) right now," said Wilson, who has said he will return to Raleigh, N.C. in August to begin his senior football season. "I'm concerned about what I'm doing right now."
Which is playing baseball. He'll make his professional debut tonight (Friday), and he's pretty eager to make an impression on his teammates, his coaches and the fans at Gesa Stadium.
"My objective is to excel and get better each and every day," he said. "I want to get to the major-league level as quickly as possible."
Like his father Harrison Wilson, a former free agent wide receiver out of Dartmouth who once caught passes from San Diego Chargers Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Fouts, he wants to reach the NFL someday, too.
"I want to reach the major leagues," Russell said. "I want to be an NFL player, too."
As I stood there with Wilson, taking notes and listening to him talk about his future livelihood. He impressed me as a very serious man, one who would not take such thoughts lightly.
There's something about the way Wilson emphasized that last quote — the conviction in his voice, the directness of his statement.
Let me tell you something — I'll be a little surprised if Wilson doesn't do exactly what he says he will.
But he's got an exciting season ahead of him. In both sports.