Rookie CB Wilson Earns High Praise From Sparano And Teammates

Posted Sep 26, 2011

Growing pains are something that are typically experienced by individuals and not teams, but Miami Dolphins rookie cornerback Jimmy Wilson learned Sunday that his teammates are feeling the pain with him.

Wilson turned in a standout performance by just about anybody’s standards, intercepting the first pass of his career to set up Miami’s only touchdown and breaking up two passes. In fact, Head Coach Tony Sparano was quick to point out that of the 22 plays Wilson was on the field for he earned 21 pluses from the coaches watching the film.

Unfortunately, the one minus happened to come on Colt McCoy’s game-winning touchdown pass to Mohamed Massaquoi that lifted the Browns to a 17-16 victory. Wilson took it hard, lying flat on his stomach in the end zone after the catch for a while and talking at length in the locker room after the game about how he felt responsible for the loss. Sparano is intent on net letting that negative feeling fester in Wilson.

“I’m going to tell you something now, this Jimmy Wilson, he’s going to be all right,” Sparano said. “I realize what happened and I know the guy’s taking it hard, but I’m going to walk into that meeting in a little while and I’m going to tell Jimmy Wilson, ‘You just keep swinging.’ This guy is going to be okay.”

Wilson’s teammates were telling him as much immediately after the game and one by one they came by to pick him up by offering him assurances. Inside linebacker Karlos Dansby, one of the team’s captains, reminded Wilson it’s a game of inches and that some of the best have had it happen to them, including Deion Sanders and Charles Woodson. The key is having a short memory.

Second-year cornerback Nolan Carroll understands that better than most as he has been thrown into the fire since starting cornerback Vontae Davis went down with a hamstring injury. He was covering Houston Texans wide receiver Andre Johnson in Week 2 when Johnson caught the game-clinching 23-yard touchdown pass so he made sure to get in Wilson’s ear.

“For a guy to do what he did coming in as a rookie and stepping in and playing impressively, we’re all still behind him,” Carroll said. “I’m still behind Jimmy and I know how he feels, too, so I just told him to keep his head up and learn from it because you can grow from it.”

But when someone is as passionate and competitive as Wilson as is and has been through what he’s been through in his life, it’s difficult to let something like that play go. This is a young man who almost lost football and life as he knew it forever after facing murder charges. He spent 25 months in jail and went through two trials before being acquitted, missing three years of college football in the process, so he knows how precious opportunities are at this point.

“After that play I really can’t give myself props just because you’ve got to play complete games in the NFL and one play can ruin the whole thing,” said Wilson, who also had one solo tackle in the game. “When I got home last night I had texts from friends and family saying I played a good game, but they don’t understand that there’s a very small margin for error between a good play and a blown coverage. I’m glad I played as well as I did and got my first career interception, but there are still things I need to work on and the more game experience I get the better I’ll be.”

It’s that sense of accountability that has earned Wilson the respect from his teammates, specifically from the veterans. They know that he’s going to make corrections and continue to learn because he wants so badly to not have even one bad play.

What’s more intriguing about how Wilson performed overall is the fact that as Sparano saw it, he didn’t really even make a mistake on the touchdown pass. He did his job correctly, but the outcome didn’t support that view.

“Listen, it was a double move. The kid made a double move down there and Jimmy played the route exactly correct,” Sparano said. “He didn’t fall for the double move. When the receiver stopped Jimmy stopped. Jimmy accelerated and went up for the ball. I’ve seen Jimmy make that play. You’ve seen Jimmy make that play by now. The guy out-jumped him, the kid threw a helluva football and it ends up in the guy’s hands. That’s the way it goes.”