Tyler Wilson will be one of the premier selections during the NFL 2013 draft, as he brings a host of tangible and intangible gifts that will make him an asset to any team that is in the market for a starting or backup quarterback.
Wilson is the real deal when it comes to the raw numbers. During his four years at Arkansas, he averaged a 63.3 completion percentage, and in his final two years as the starting quarterback, he averaged over 3,500 passing yards and threw for 45 touchdowns.
He has 26 career interceptions, but 13 of those came this season when he did not have the offensive line or the receivers necessary to make plays. During the 2011 season when he did have all of those elements in place, Wilson only threw six interceptions.
Wilson also possesses something in spades that many fans believe is currently lacking in today’s professional sports environment: heart.
“Heart” is a cheesy concept that elicits plenty of groaning and eye rolling from a lot of fans due to their growing disenchantment and pessimistic outlook on our nation’s sports culture.
During the last few years, fans have watched our sports figures hurt themselves and others, such as the recent tragedies in Kansas City and Dallas. They have watched their favorite leagues shut down or nearly shut down due to bitter contract disputes between players and owners.
They have watched a national media that ignores success on the field, like Eli Manning’s two Super Bowl rings, and rewards player antics like Ndamukong Suh’s thuggish behavior with attention and press coverage.
And sometimes it seems like players are more valued for their ability to sell Gatorade and underwear than for their ability to contribute to their team’s success on the field.
Wilson is the antithesis of that. Instead of entering the draft at his first chance, he stayed behind in Arkansas to help his home team in his home state do something great on the field.
He held in his frustration with his offensive line’s inability to give him proper protection while he stood in the pocket and made plays. He was pummeled on the field again and again and sustained an injury in the process.
Even his brief outburst after Arkansas’ loss to Alabama was understandable given what the Hogs’ season was supposed to be compared to what it would slowly become.
It takes heart to stand in that pocket and make plays when the supporting players are letting their quarterback down. It takes heart to get up again and again and ask for more, knowing the next play could result in another injury that could cost him his season or even his career.
And that is what inspires players in the locker room and fans in the stadium.
Players rally around a guy that is willing to take as much punishment on every play as they are. Fans rally around a guy that gets hit and keeps getting up, because that is what they do, or wish they could do in their daily lives.
Heart helps build fan loyalty, and ultimately, a team’s long-term brand.
That is what Wilson will bring to any NFL team that selects him. They get a guy that despite any physical shortcomings, gives the rest of the locker room someone to believe in and inspires fans.
Wilson may not be Andrew Luck or RG3, but he doesn’t have to be. All he has to be is someone for the local fanbase to get behind that performs well on the field.
That’s what he was in Arkansas. And that is what he will bring to any NFL team fortunate enough to get him.