Seahawks cornerback Josh Wilson dreams big and hits big, although he's only 5-foot-9. "I want to get the ball in my hands and I want the team to depend on me," he says.
The play had become one of San Francisco’s favorites. You can imagine the Niners running it over and over again in practice last week, knowing it would work the way a closer knows his 3-2 slider will be swung on and missed.
It was a simple play, a quick pass in the flat designed to get the ball in rookie wide receiver Michael Crabtree’s hands. A playmaker’s play.
But while the Niners practiced that play on the field, cornerback Josh Wilson studied it all week on film. And when the play was finally called, in the third quarter of a tied game, Wilson pounced on it hungrily.
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“It was time for somebody to step up and make a play,” Wilson said, “so I read my keys and took a chance, and thank God it worked.”
Wilson shed the blocker in front of Crabtree, blew up the play, throwing Crabtree for a 3-yard loss that led to another Niner three-and-out. San Francisco never came back to that play.
“That’s what a great defense does,” Wilson said after the Hawks’ 20-17 win. “It brings the heat, brings the wood. You want to let teams know, ‘We’re gonna hit you.’ And I just wanted to send a message on that play. ‘Don’t run that play again.’ I’m glad it pumped up the crowd, pumped up the team and helped get us this win.”
In his third season in the NFL, Wilson is emerging as the Seahawks’ defensive game-changer. His pick six in the Hawks’ last home game sealed a win over the Detroit Lions. It was his fourth touchdown in three seasons in Seattle.
Wilson ignites like gasoline. He covers the field like sweat.
In the fourth quarter, when San Francisco was driving toward a go-ahead score, Wilson picked up Frank Gore’s fumble and ran it back 43 yards, setting up the first of Olindo Mare’s two late-game field goals.
“That’s who I want to be,” Wilson said. “I want to be a player who impacts the game every time I’m on the field. That’s how you stay in the game, by being a game-changer. That’s what I try to do every week.”
At 5-foot-9, Wilson is supposed to be too small to start as an NFL cornerback. He’s too small to deal with bigger, physical receivers, like the 6-foot-1 Crabtree. But this season he has been the Hawks’ most dependable defensive back.
Wilson plays big, dreams big, hits big.
“It ain’t about your height. It’s about how big you play,” said Marcus Trufant, the Hawks’ other starting corner. “And he’s playing big, man. He’s just got a knack for the ball. He’s making plays all over the place and every time he steps out on the field, he’s getting better and better. Some day it’s going to be a scary sight.”
Wilson laughs when he’s told he’s too small to play cornerback. It’s a joke he’s heard one too many times.
“Obviously, it’s worked out for me so far,” Wilson said. “I’ve grown my hair out so that gives me a couple of inches, which puts me at about the height that’s supposed to be required.
“You see, I’ve got this thing in my head where I don’t think I’m that small. I think I’m pretty big. I ain’t worried about height, man. It’s about being a player. That’s what I am. I’m a football player, not just a guy who plays football.”
Wilson is fearless.
If he were a basketball player, he’d be the guy who wants the ball in his hands in the final minutes. He’d take the big shots. He’d be clutch.
“I’m more of a defensive player in basketball, a drive-to-the-hole, Eric Snow kind of player,” Wilson said. “But, believe me, I’m one of the most competitive guys you’re going to meet.
“I want to get the ball in my hands and I want the team to depend on me. I’ve been blessed with a lot of talent and a lot of ability to make things happen. I like the onus on me.”
He is a draft pick from recently resigned general manager Tim Ruskell that worked, taken in the second round of the 2007 draft. As he often did, Ruskell took a chance on an undersized defender.
“I’ll always thank him for giving me a chance to play in this league,” Wilson said. “You call it taking a chance on me. Well, I think I try to prove myself every week that he wasn’t really taking a chance.”
Ask Michal Crabtree about Tim Ruskell’s gamble.