It’s not every day a Super Bowl-winning quarterback and his Grammy award-winning wife visit Raleigh, but when they do, it’s a big deal.
Former N.C. State quarterback Russell Wilson, now of the Seattle Seahawks, and his wife, Ciara, were in the Triangle for a few days last month. Wilson wasn’t wearing a helmet in his return to Carter-Finley Stadium, instead donning a red gown as the keynote commencement speaker.
The conversations between Wilson’s camp and N.C. State started in March, spearheaded by football Sports Information Director Annabelle Myers, who reached out to Wilson on behalf of the school.
N.C. State Chancellor Randy Woodson and his chief of staff, Paula Gentius, were then in constant communication with Wilson and his representation to make the trip happen.
The News & Observer obtained records of correspondences between Wilson’s camp and the university leading up to the trip that cost N.C. State just over $2,000.
Lodging and travel
On March 20, Wilson responded to an email to Woodson alerting him that Myers reached out about speaking at commencement. Wilson wrote that “put a smile on my face.”
Wilson wrote that he would connect with his team and the wheels were set in motion for a trip to Raleigh. Throughout the next few weeks, Gentius and Tenasha Trujillo, who works with Wilson on the business side, exchanged several emails to secure the quarterback’s availability.
N.C. State had two separate graduations, May 14 and May 15, but Wilson was only available to speak in person on Friday the 14th.
Arrangements were made for Wilson to arrive, via redeye, in the wee hours of the morning May 14. One of the first orders of business was to arrange transportation from the airport. White Horse Transportation in Raleigh handled the job of taking Wilson and his family (including two security guards and Trujillo) around for the duration of their stay.
Originally two black SUVs with no drivers were requested. White Horse Transportation informed Wilson’s camp that they don’t rent vehicles, but they guaranteed they would supply their two best drivers.
The total of the two SUVs for Wilson’s stay was $1,250.00, paid by the university. The drivers transported Wilson and company from the airport to The Umstead Hotel & Spa in Cary, to Carter-Finley, back to the hotel and back to the airport the next day.
Wilson brought Ciara, Trujillo and his own security detail with him to Raleigh. Brandon Sims, Director of Security for the Wilson’s, was introduced, virtually, to Sergeant Brian Wiggs of the N.C. State Police Department, who served as the point of contact.
While Wilson sat on the stage at Carter-Finley Stadium during the ceremony, his family sat in a private suite on the second level of Vaughn Towers, with a university police officer assigned to the family.
Wilson and his family requested the Presidential Suites at The Umstead Hotel & Spa. Those suites, however, were unavailable. Wilson instead stayed in a Signature Spa Level Suite, with a special request that the largest room be for Wilson, for $450 a night for two nights, an expense also handled by N.C. State.
His party also requested a spa-level suite that connected to Wilson’s room and a premier room with two double beds from Wednesday to Saturday on a separate floor. Incidentals and meals were not covered, according to email exchanges.
Wilson’s speech lasted almost 18 minutes and he left Raleigh the following morning. A recorded speech was played for the graduates on the second day.