Russell Wilson explained how 'the biggest "no" of my career became the biggest "yes" during his graduation speech at the University of Wisconsin

Russell Wilson gave the commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 14, 2016.YouTube/Wisonsin BadgersRussell Wilson gave the commencement speech at the University of Wisconsin-Madison on May 14, 2016.

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson gave an impassioned commencement speech about perseverance to the University of Wisconsin-Madison (UW) class of 2016. And he didn’t give 
Tom O’Brien, his former coach at North Carolina State University, any breaks.

“The moments that really matter are the moments when life tells you no,” he said, before launching into an discussion of how he was underestimated while at NC State.

Wilson, who apologised for his poor southern accent, put on a drawl to impersonate O’Brien:

The summer before my senior year of college, I’m playing minor league baseball. I call my football coach at N.C. State and say, ‘Hey coach, I’d like to come back for my senior year.’ And he told me I wasn’t coming back.

He said, ‘Listen, son, you’re never going to play in the National Football League. You’re too small. There’s no chance. You got no shot. Give it up.’

I said, ‘So you’re telling me if I come back to N. State, I won’t see the field?’ He said, ‘No, son, you won’t see the field.’

After that conversation, Wilson transferred to UW where he finished his collegiate career. 

“In the end, what started out as the biggest ‘no’ of my career became the biggest ‘yes’ of my career,” he said.

Wilson also used some self-deprecating humour. To poke fun at himself, he advised graduates not to throw an interception in a Super Bowl game if they’re playing the New England Patriots, as he did in 2014.

He also referenced his relationship with singer Ciara, who he became engaged to in March.

“If you’re dating a woman that’s way out of your league, ask her to marry you,” he said.

You can listen to his entire speech here:

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