Two years ago, cornerback Jimmy Wilson was in a Los Angeles County jail awaiting trial for murder. He was acquitted, and has gotten back to playing football. This year he was drafted in the seventh round by the Miami Dolphins; he looks to be the steal of the 2011 NFL draft.
Coming into the 2007 offseason, Wilson played Division I-FCS for three years at the University of Montana. He was a rising star for Montana and was a preseason candidate in 2007 to be an All-American.
That is, before everything went wrong.
Jimmy was in Missoula with his family for the offseason. He was having dinner with his grandmother when he got a phone call from his aunt that would change his life.
She called and told him that she had been assaulted by Jimmy Smoot, her boyfriend.
Without thinking, Wilson rushed over to help her out and diffuse the situation. Unfortunately for him, the exact opposite would happen.
The details what happened next are unclear. Wilson claims that he was wrestling over Smoot's rifle, and the gun accidentally went off, killing his aunt's boyfriend, but prosecutors eventually claimed that the murder was a premeditated killing by Wilson.
Panicked and in shock, Wilson fled to Montana. He then spoke with a lawyer, got back in the car and drove to California, where he turned himself in. It appeared that his football career and life would be over.
Jimmy didn't have the necessary $2 million to post his bail; he was forced to rot in jail for over a year while he awaited trial. In that time, Jimmy constantly thought about getting back to playing the sport that he loved.
At the trial, Wilson received good news. A hung jury with 11 "not guilty" votes and one "guilty" votes was the ultimate verdict, so the judge declared a mistrial. His joy was short-lived, however, as the prosecutors decided to re-try him.
Wilson was sent back to jail again for six months. Another jail sentence only built the restlessness and longing to get back to the gridiron.
This time, it took less than a day before an entire jury acquitted him.
Eager to get back to football, Wilson went back to Montana and asked to be given back a spot on the roster. The school gave the accused murderer a shot at redemption.
Wilson took that opportunity and made the most out of it. Playing as a cornerback, he recorded 50 tackles, two sacks and two forced fumbles in only eight games last season.
Jimmy is praised for his sure tackling ability and relentless hard hits. Watch the video; Wilson annihilates two receivers trying to catch passes on his defense.
He is a solid one-on-one cover corner as well. This is all considering that he spent over three years out of the game. Nobody doubts the kid's potential.
The Dolphins took a chance on him, and so far it looks to be paying off.
In the Dolphins' first preseason game, Wilson recorded five tackles and a sack in limited playing time. Fans and coaches are hoping that this kid is the real deal.
Look for Wilson when Miami plays Carolina next Friday; I don't doubt that he will make the most of every opportunity that he gets.
With Vontae Davis and Sean Smith as the starting corners, Wilson is unlikely to be given a starting position. However, he is a sure tackler and seems to be good getting to the ball. Miami can't keep him off of the field if he keeps playing so well.
Jeff Ireland and company may have found a very good player whose stock dropped off because of character issues. This is the stigma, but I don't see it. He had one very large incident, but he doesn't have a bad work ethic or some of the other problems that draftees usually have.
It is possible that he murdered somebody, but if he did, it was done to protect the people that he loved.
Could he have handled the situation better? Definitely.
Everyone makes mistakes, though, and I think Wilson has paid his dues for his. When someone is given a shot at redemption, they almost always make the most of them. He's had a tremendous work ethic in camp and has showed everyone he wants to be a great NFL player.
Only time will tell if the former accused murderer can get make the most of his shot in the NFL.