Larry Burton (Syndicated Writer) When Nick Saban came to Alabama, he inherited a lot of good and bad situations and players.
One of the good players was John Parker Wilson, a mop topped big smiling guy who looked more like a surfer than a quarterback.
Looking over his choices at that position, it was apparent that Wilson would have to be the go to guy.
He may not have been the quarterback that Saban would have drafted himself, but Saban soon found many things to like about the young quarterback who always seemed to have a big smile on his face.
On a Saban team, the offense is supposed to move the chains and not turn the ball over.
Wilson appeared to be able to one of those well, but his turnovers caused Saban more than one heartburn.
With Wilson, there was a high risk reward factor.
Saban's first year in charge of the Tide was Wilson's second year as a starter after going 6-7 in Shula's last season.
It was too soon to radically change the offensive philosophy as that was dictated as much by the players as by Saban's wishes.
Major Applewhite a rookie offensive coordinator's main job was to bolster the ability and confidence of his junior quarterback. At first it appeared to go well, but Wilson went through slumps that Applewhite seemed unable to help him through.
The ability was there, but there were too many bad decisions being made.
His 18 touchdowns were good, but his 12 interceptions cost the Tide dearly.For a ball control coach, Saban needed something to happen to stop these interceptions and and costly fumbles by Wilson.
They went 6-6 in the regular season just like the year before, but won a bowl game to get to 7-6.
Exit Major Applewhite and enter Jim McElwain. What a difference this made.
McElwain got Wilson to play inside a "comfort zone" and then expand that zone. In other words, let's do what you can do and do that well, and then work on the other things.
They entered the SEC Championship game ranked No. 1 and lost a heartbreaking game to Florida, who came from behind late to crush the national championship hopes of Wilson and Alabama.
"I wanted to be the quarterback of the team who led Alabama back to greatness and while we did get the number one ranking for a while, we didn't finish the job." Wilson said. "But we proved that we were back and the next year, the team sealed the deal. I was proud to be a Crimson Tider and help them get back to the top."
He left Alabama with most of the quarterback records having his name atop them.
But that success didn't translate to NFL draft day results. Wilson went undrafted.
However the Falcon's offered him a tryout and he signed a contract as a undrafted free agent.
He has been there now for two seasons and is making just over $300,000 a year, hardly what he hoped for when he thought about his NFL career.
He has yet to take a snap in the regular season, but as the the coach of the Atlanta Falcons Mike Smith said to the Atlanta Journal Constitution of his third string quarterback, "John works hard and prepares well and we have faith that if he had to come in and play we could continue to do well."
The Falcons seem set at starting quarterback right now and Wilson's time on the sideline with a clip board in his hand seems to be a trend that will continue, but with injuries in the NFL, the only thing a backup can be assured of is that nothing is certain.
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