“I’m loving it because it’s all football,” said Wilson, who had 13 tackles (seven solo), one interception and five pass breakups as a rookie corner last year. “Back there at safety I get to run downhill, tackle guys running the ball, sneak up on quarterbacks and I think it’s going to be a place where I can make a lot of plays.”
Head Coach Joe Philbin was impressed with Wilson during the off-season practice sessions, as he has with all of the safeties. There are some viable attributes to Wilson’s game that Philbin has already taken notice of.
“I like what he’s doing. He kind of moves like a football player,” Philbin said. “He’s got pretty good acceleration, it looks like he has relatively good instincts, so he shows up around the action quite a bit and in pretty quick time, so I like that about him. I like the progress he’s making.”
Wilson doesn’t see the move as something out of the ordinary since he caught the attention of NFL scouts as a safety during his senior year at the University of Montana. He had begun his college career as a cornerback before missing three years from 2007-09 dealing with a life-changing legal matter.
Two of those three years for Wilson were spent behind bars on murder charges, but he was acquitted during a second trial and won a petition to the NCAA to get back one year of eligibility. His strong senior season for the Grizzlies, combined with an impressive performance at Montana’s pro day opened some eyes, and the Dolphins were high among those showing interest.
“There is no limit to Jimmy’s potential,” said fourth-year cornerback
Something that became evident early on during Wilson’s rookie campaign was the respect he earned from his teammates both in the secondary and on the entire team. All of the veterans were aware of his personal history and everything he had to overcome just to get another shot at civilian life, much less playing football.
As the 2011 season went on, Wilson quickly became one of the guys and somebody thought of highly inside the locker room and on the field. He attacked his role on special teams with just as much intensity as he did at cornerback and has chosen to focus more on his unit this year than himself as an individual.
“Defense in the NFL is all about guys lining up,” Wilson said. “We’ve got enough talented guys to where if we just line up and stay on our keys then we’re going to make a lot of plays. We’ve already got that camaraderie and we didn’t like the way things ended last year. So together as a secondary we want to make it a better year and make sure that we come out firing and make a name for ourselves in this league.”
The loss of strong safety Yeremiah Bell to free agency might end up putting more pressure on Wilson to help fill that void. His comfort level with Smith, starting cornerback
Even though this is a different coaching staff under Philbin and defensive coordinator Kevin Coyle, Wilson holds high expectations for what’s in store in 2012. His versatility in the secondary is something he knows will help his overall game.
“I’m comfortable with three positions on the field – safety, nickel and corner, so I just want to be in a place where I can help my team,” Wilson said. “I think that’s what these coaches are doing a great job of, which is putting guys where they can maximize their potential. I’m not worried about the transition because I got a lot of film and it’s coming easier and easier.
“I think what the fans can expect from me is just what they do like about me, which is I’m never going to slow down. I’m out here to play football and I can only do it the way I was taught. That’s what they’re going to get from me every game is I’m going to try my hardest and I’m going to do it for the fans. I’m just trying to make it.”