Wilson Iowa's "Next Man In"

A year ago, Marcus Wilson was beginning his education as a college free safety. Last Saturday, an injury pushed him into the lineup against No. 1 Ohio State. It appears Wilson will receive his first start this week against pass-happy Purdue. HN.com Senior Writer Rob Howe caught up with Wilson on Tuesday to talk about his experience against the Buckeyes and his feelings about his first start.

Other players have crumbled, stammered and stuttered through their first interview in front of the media throng outside of the Hayden Fry Football Complex. Marcus Wilson stood his ground Tuesday and acted like he belonged there just as he had a few days earlier when thrown into action against top-ranked Ohio State.

The Iowa redshirt freshman reminds you of former Hawkeye Jovon Johnson. They love the game and really have fun playing it. They live the cliché.

How else would you explain Wilson jawing with Buckeye quarterback Troy Smith, the front-runner for the Heisman?

"We had a couple of words," Wilson said with a big smile. "(Smith) was like, "Who are you? You're not even on the depth chart." That's when I knew that they really didn't know who I was. I was like, ‘Now you know who I am. I'm on the depth chart and I'm on the field right now.'"

Wilson (6-3, 198) became the newest "next man in" when starting free safety Marcus Paschal was sent to the sidelines with a hamstring injury. Second-teamer Devan Moylan already was laid up with an injury, so Wilson got the call.

"When I first got out there, I was shocked," Wilson said. "The crowd was great, loud and everything. You could barely hear the calls, but after awhile we started to get used to it and comfortable out there."

Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday that he would be surprised to see Paschal return to the lineup this week, so it looked like Wilson would get his first start. The coach said that he was pleased with the play of his youngster against Ohio State, when he had seven tackles.

"Coach Ferentz always says the next man in, you got to be ready," Wilson said. "I was ready for the Ohio State game. As soon as they called me, I was ready to come in. That's a big thing around here, the next man in."

Wilson arrived at Iowa as a wide receiver, but quickly switched to safety. He welcomed the move and took tips from fellow safety Miguel Merrick, who also played receiver in high school.

"We talk about that all of the time," Wilson said. "We have a competition of who has the best hands on the defense since we both came in as receivers."

Wilson worked out at free safety in the spring and in the summer. He also spent time recently learning the cornerback spot.

"It's basically the same thing," Wilson said. "I know at corner where the safety is supposed to be. As a safety, I know what the corner is supposed to do. So, it's not a hard adjustment at all."

One of the more impressive things about Wilson stepping in and showing well against Ohio State was his ability to make play calls. The free safety is the quarterback of the secondary.

"It's just basically making the call," Wilson said. "I'm comfortable. They beat my head in getting me prepared."

Paschal and the other veteran defensive backs helped Wilson get through his first significant action.

"They're basically my big brothers," Wilson said. "They're helping me out through the whole thing. They're basically my mentors.

"Even during the game against Ohio State, they were telling me to stay focused; just play football. We're playing football. We love the game."

The love of the game inspires and injects life into Wilson. He's constant motion on the field, even when the play has ended.

"I'm just playing the game," he said. "I love the game so much."

In just his second fall on campus, one of the questions about handling playing time at safety was his strength and conditioning. Wilson seemed to hold up pretty well.

"(Chris) Doyle has a big part of it," Wilson said. "The Big Ten has big backs. It was certainly different than playing high school, but I felt like transitional wise, it was alright. I didn't feel anything changed."

Wilson seems to enjoy challenges, and he'll get one this Saturday when Purdue and its wide-open offense comes to Kinnick Stadium for Homecoming. The Boilermakers and quarterback Curtis Painter are coming off of a game where they put up 490 yards against Notre Dame. Painter threw for 398.

"It's going to be a big game, so I'm just going to come out ready to play," Wilson said with a smile.

He better be.


High school honors: Earned pre- and post-season all-Region recognition by Prep Star Magazine . . . named to Philadelphia Inquirer all-Area first team as a senior . . . first team all-South Jersey as a wide receiver as a senior and second team selection on defense as a junior . . . named to first team all-Parochial team as well . . . first team all-conference wide receiver as a senior and junior . . . second team all-conference defensive back as a sophomore . . . member of prep team that won three straight conference titles . . . helped team finish as state runner-up as a junior . . . team captain as a senior . . . Career - - career totals include 73 receptions for 1,573 yards and 16 touchdowns, along with 15 rushing attempts for 150 yards and three scores . . . recorded 163 career tackles on defense, with 14 interceptions and two touchdowns . . . gained 810 receiving yards on 34 receptions as a senior, scoring nine touchdowns . . . on defense as a senior, recorded 45 tackles and four interceptions, while scoring on one punt return and one fumble return . . . 38 receptions for 740 yards and seven touchdowns as a junior, along with 80 tackles and six interceptions on defense . . . earned four letters in football . . . also competed in track and field in long jump and sprint events.

Personal: Born 3/26/87 . . . open major . . . mother is Diane Wilson . . . nephew of Iowa linebacker Coach Darrell Wilson . . . high school coach was Dennis Scuderi.

Hawkeye Insider Top Stories