Buffalo Bills: A Salute to George Wilson's Service

Greg Maiola@Gom1094Senior Analyst IIFebruary 11, 2013

Nov 4, 2012; Houston, TX, USA; Buffalo Bills strong safety George Wilson (37) looks at the scoreboard against the Houston Texans during the second half at Reliant Stadium. The Texans won 21-9. Mandatory Credit: Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports
Thomas Campbell-USA TODAY Sports

George Wilson's road to an NFL starter is a bit complicated and a tad unconventional. So while Wilson's tenure as a Bill is now over, this is a great time to recognize the transformation of Wilson throughout the course of his Bills career.

Wilson entered the 2004 NFL Draft as a receiver out of Arkansas but didn't hear his name called by the commissioner that April. He was signed by the Detroit Lions after the draft but was later released. On October 18 2004, Wilson was added to the Bills' practice squad and from that moment made a name for himself.

Wilson's NFL debut came against the Houston Texans on September 11, 2005; he played in only two more games that season and never recorded any catches, only chipping in two special teams tackles.

Wilson didn't touch the field in 2006, and his future in the NFL was inevitably looking bleak.

However, the Bills put faith in Wilson in 2007, and No. 37 rewarded the organization with five stellar seasons thereafter.

The Bills didn't have a role for Wilson on offense but gave him the opportunity to transform into a  safety, a position completely foreign to Wilson.

The Bills' organization and coaches invested their time and efforts into a project player rather than simply signing a veteran defensive back or drafting one. Wilson put in the work and successfully made the transition from catching passes to intercepting them.

In 2007, Wilson made huge contributions for the Bills, starting nine of his 12 games played. He started nine games in his first season at a foreign position, an incredible feat in today's game.

Position changes are simply a rarity in today's NFL, as high schools and colleges emphasize developing players at a certain position to become as pro-ready as possible. NFL coaches simply don't have the time to take every athlete and mold them into a new creature on the field, but Buffalo went out of the way to develop Wilson, and Wilson rewarded the organization.

In his first ever NFL start, against the Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football nonetheless, Wilson intercepted a Tony Romo pass and took it to the house. How's that for a welcome to the NFL moment?

From that Monday Night game until Week 17 of the 2012 NFL Season, Wilson has started 55 games at safety for the Bills. He had 412 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and three forced fumbles, including three seasons of 100-plus tackles.

For as amazing as Wilson has been in his position switch, he has been very influential off the field as well.

He was a Bills' team captain for four consecutive seasons and started the George Wilson S.A.F.E.T.Y. Foundation, which serves to help youth overcome difficult environments and situations.

Wilson was awarded the Buffalo Bills' Walter Payton Man of the Year Award in both 2009 and 2011, demonstrating his commitment to serve the Buffalo community.

Among his other community work, Wilson teamed with United Way to help decrease the high school dropout rate.

The release of Wilson proves that the Bills are headed in a new direction under new head coach Doug Marrone, but Wilson's contributions deserve eternal respect.

From a football perspective, Wilson defied the odds and converted from a special teams only wide receiver into one of the better starting safeties in all of the NFL.

Wilson was clearly committed to giving back to the Buffalo youth and community and made a significant impact in the Buffalo region.

So while the city and player bid each other farewell, the fan base should take one final moment to cherish all that the man has done for the city, and all the player has done for the organization.

The 2012 season may not have been Wilson's finest hour, but No. 37's impact in Buffalo is far greater than his performance in a single season.

The time has come for Wilson and Buffalo to part ways, but his legacy and stint as a fan favorite will remain. He is a pure class act who deserves the utmost respect and will continue to succeed in this league, just not only in Buffalo.