Tyler Wilson did not declare for the NFL draft last season, opting to stay at Arkansas for the chance at a National Championship. Was that a mistake?
The answer to that question depends on how one would define a “mistake.” Some will say that Wilson should have entered the draft because he could have avoided the Razorbacks’ catastrophic season. Instead of making his case to NFL teams with a 4-8 record and 13 interceptions on the season, he could have presented potential teams with an 11-2 record, a Cotton Bowl victory and a Top Five finish in the FBS rankings.
But that “mistake” is based on events and information that he knows now, not what he knew then.
Then, he had a team that was returning six seniors on both sides of the ball that had the experience of back-to-back seasons with at least 10 wins. He had a coach that was one of the best play-callers and game managers in college football. He had returning players like Chris Gragg and a healthy Knile Davis that would be there to terrorize SEC defenses as they had done in the past. He had a 2012 schedule that had LSU and Alabama playing the Hogs in Fayetteville. All the pieces were in place.
Now he knows that his offensive line allowed opposing defenses to pound him into the ground almost every time he dropped back to throw the football. He knows that his defense took until the LSU game to figure out how to competently perform for an entire ballgame. He knows that Bobby Petrino was not on his sideline. He knows that Chris Gragg missed seven games due to injury, and Knile Davis had an offseason. He knows that he did not play in the Alabama game. He knows that somewhere it all fell apart.
If he had some way of knowing all of that information before this season, then yes, staying at Arkansas was a “mistake.” But at the time of his decision, all he knew was he had the opportunity to do something that Arkansas had not done since 1964: bring home a National Championship. And for a football player from Greenwood, Ark., being the quarterback that helps bring home a title for the most prominent team in the state for that fanbase is a lifelong dream that should be pursued if the opportunity presents itself.
Now he has hindsight. It is no different than a coach that decides to go for it on 4th-and-3 or a guy that drops out of college to build computers in his parents’ garage. If the team converts and they score a touchdown, the coach is a football guru. If the team fumbles and the other team runs it back for six, the coach is an idiot that should have punted.
If the entrepreneur goes from being Bill Gates, college dropout, to Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, he’s a genius. If he fails, he’s still Bill Gates, college dropout.
This is an era where many college athletes opt to take the money and run as opposed to staying at their university, finishing their education and trying to build something great. And that’s not stupid or greedy or evil. Why risk injury or any other kind of tragedy playing for free when there is the chance of providing for yourself and your family for life? It’s a safe decision.
But what about those athletes, like Wilson, that don’t decide to take the money and run? What about those that take the risk to do something great for their college team? Is it a mistake if it doesn’t work out? Are they geniuses if it does?
Tyler Wilson took a chance. If he had taken the chance with a team that was going to be in a rebuilding phase with a new coach, it would have been a mistake. But he had a Top Ten team that had potential. He had a chance to do something special for his home team in his home state. He sacrificed his own personal interest in the hopes of making his team better on the field.
Isn’t that what sports are supposed to be about?