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Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson looks forward to returning 'home' to N.C.

Seattle Seahawks at Carolina Panthers, Sunday 1 p.m. (Fox, WJZY)

Scott Fowler is a national award-winning sports columnist for The Charlotte Observer.

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Russell Wilson is everywhere these days. I get three national sports magazines at my house, and Wilson has made the cover of all of them over the past few months.

The former N.C. State and current Seattle quarterback has become very hot entering his second season – much like Cam Newton was entering his second season in 2012.

“We're almost in the same boat, you know?” Newton said Wednesday.

It is an apt comparison.

Although Newton would tower over Wilson in a team picture – the Panthers quarterback is six inches taller and roughly 40 pounds heavier – they share the same dual-threat skill set as well as the same agent. How well Carolina contends with Wilson on Sunday in the 1 p.m. season opener at home against Seattle will be critical.

As for Wilson, he doesn’t mind the cross-country road trip in store for him this weekend.

“Whenever I come back, it’s a great moment for me,” he said. “N.C. State was a great experience for me. I graduated from there in three years. … I went back this summer (to Raleigh) to run my football camps. It feels like home.”

Wilson has tried hard throughout the offseason to make sure he comes out on top Sunday, just like he did in 2012 when the Seahawks came to Charlotte and edged Carolina 16-12 in just his fifth NFL start.

This offseason Wilson has dabbled in meditation and yoga. He also swam hundreds of laps during the summer to better his conditioning and strengthen his shoulders.

“Swimming was the best thing I did,” he said.

Wilson made a huge splash last season when he led the Seahawks to an 11-5 regular-season record and a playoff win against Washington. His 5-foot-11 height has always been held against him as a quarterback and was the reason he lasted until the third round of the 2012 draft, but now the Panthers’ coach compares him to another “short” quarterback.

“This is a Drew Brees-style guy,” Ron Rivera said. “He’s not quite as tall as the typical quarterback. He’s athletic as all get-out. He’s got great vision for getting the ball downfield. They do great things with him. They get him out on the edges and give him throwing lanes so he can see his primary targets.”

Seattle coach Pete Carroll was so tickled with Wilson last season after the Seahawks took him in the third round that he started him from Day One. He said Wilson and Newton’s scrambling ability sets them apart.

Said Carroll: “The fact that they have dimensions to run with the football after the play breaks down, that’s always been the most difficult factor for a defense to defend because it’s so unpredictable. … That’s the element they add to the game that makes them special.”

Wilson said he particularly looks forward to facing off against Panthers middle linebacker Luke Kuechly, with whom he battled when Wilson was at N.C. State and Kuechly at Boston College.

“That’s my dude, man,” Wilson said. “He's one of my favorite players to watch.”

At N.C. State, Wilson started for three years (2008-10) and was an outstanding quarterback, throwing for 76 touchdowns and winning all-conference honors every year. He continued to pursue a possible baseball career during those years as well, which hurt his relationship with former Wolfpack coach Tom O'Brien.

They eventually parted ways, with Wilson transferring for his senior year to Wisconsin. He didn't have to sit out a year since he had already graduated, and he got Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl in his only season there.

When asked by a reporter on a conference call Wednesday if he thought O’Brien would still be N.C. State’s coach if Wilson had stayed for his senior season, he said “I have no idea” and added “God works in mysterious ways.”

After five straight years of football success in college and the NFL, few doubt Wilson’s ability or his height anymore. Certainly the Panthers don't.

“He may be short, but he can make all the throws,” Panthers cornerback Captain Munnerlyn said. “And I do mean every throw.”

As for his national ascendance into a star, Wilson said he still doesn't feel like one.

“I feel like a normal guy,” he said, “trying to learn how to play the game and do it well.”


Fowler:; Twitter: @scott_fowler
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