Mack Brown's First Texas Commitment

In the nearly twelve years that Coach Mack Brown has led the Texas Longhorns he had received verbal commitments from over 250 prospects, but there can only be one first time and Marcus Wilkins of Round Rock Westwood was the first to commit to Coach Brown. Wilkins ended up playing six seasons in the NFL.

When Coach Mack Brown left the University of North Carolina after a 10-1 regular season in 1997, he came in to Texas on December 4th with just two months to land his first recruiting class. That class, which signed in February 1998, is considered by many to be the foundation upon which much of the success has been built.

Marcus Wilkins had been a three year starter at Round Rock Westwood while playing cornerback, free safety, linebacker and wide receiver. Wilkins was overshadowed in a class that included the Texas City Fab Four, Antwan Kirk-Hughes, Mike Williams, and Victor Ike. In fact, Wilkins did not even make the hometown Austin American Statesman's Fab 55 list, but he did get that precious offer from Texas.

"When Mack Brown came in, I was the first commitment that he got," Marcus Wilkins said. "I had already taken a visit to Oklahoma. Then I came to Texas, obviously I am from Austin, and I realized I didn't want to travel too far from home so it was a no-brainer."

Wilkins like nine of his other classmates was forced into action as a true freshman. Wilkins played in six games at weakside linebacker and contributed on special teams. In fact, for the next two seasons, Wilkins was a reserve linebacker and special teams player. As a senior, he moved to defensive end (again as a back-up) but continued to play on special teams. By the end of his career, he had played in 49 games, won four letters, but never started a game for Texas.

"It was a weird situation. I never started a game (at Texas). I played obviously but didn't have monster stats. Things have a way of working out. I was able to have an outstanding pro day," Wilkins said recently to Burnt Orange Beat.

When Wilkins started working out with Lance Hooten to prepare for the pro day and a possible NFL career, he had his doubters.

"After my four years, I started preparing for the league. A lot of guys thought, ‘why is that guy trying to make it?' I just buried my head in it, I worked hard at it and had nothing to lose. When that day came, I had an unbelievable performance and it got me the opportunity to get into the league. And after you get in, it's equal."

Wilkins made the most of his opportunity. He was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Green Bay Packers. He actually signed his first NFL contract without an agent. Wilkins played in six games as a back-up linebacker and special teams player in two seasons for the Packers. After signing and staying in Arizona for just one week, Wilkins caught on with the Cincinnati Bengals near the end of training camp.

"I was the last guy to make the roster in Cincinnati," Wilkins said. "I pinned my ears back and never took the job for granted." He managed to play for the Bengals for three more successful seasons logging minutes in every game except for one and also earned a Special Teams Player of the Year. His Bengal jersey still hangs in the football office at Westwood high school.

The Atlanta Falcons then signed the five-year veteran to a three-year deal in early 2007 with its new head coach Bobby Petrino. Wilkins then played in fifteen games for the Falcons before being released in the offseason that saw Petrino leave the organization.

After being released by the Falcons with six years of NFL play under his belt, Wilkins retired from the league and moved to Katy, Texas. For three teams, Wilkins played in 68 games with zero starts.

So after 49 college games and 68 NFL games, amazingly, Wilkins did not once start a game.

"I honestly don't know anybody else that did it like I did it. There are some unique stories in the NFL, but I never came across anybody that did it quite like I did it."

Wilkins now lives in Katy with his wife, and owns a tax preparation company. Wilkins also plans to start a sports training company this summer. Wilkins still plans to return to Austin to finish his last semester of course work.

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