Bears CB C.J. Wilson moving up depth chart

Bears rookie cornerback C.J. Wilson has caught the eye of Chicago's coaches during OTAs and even took reps with the second team today. Bear Report goes one-on-one with the undrafted free agent.

Chicago Bears general manager Phil Emery didn't draft any cornerbacks in 2013, but he did bring in North Carolina State product C.J. Wilson as an undrafted free agent.

At 5-11 187, Wilson is an agile, physical corner who had an outstanding pro day. His 4.34 40-yard dash would have tied for second fastest, had he been invited to the NFL Scouting Combine. He also did 17 bench-press reps of 225, third best amongst corners at the combine.

As a three-year starter for the Wolfpack, Wilson brings keen intelligence, graduating in three and a half years with a double major in Sports Management and Coaching, as well as the desire to succeed. Wilson spoke with Bear Report today about his background and what he's experienced so far during minicamps.

"I'm just so thrilled to be here," Wilson said. "It's like a dream to me. I looked down the field today and saw guys I recognize from their games on TV. It's dazzling. But I know that I can only be impressed with them for a short time. I need to get my focus back and work on my game, not stargaze across the line."

Although Wilson has played football since he was in second grade, the opportunity to play college ball seemed far beyond his reach until sophomore year in high school.

"I'm from Lincolnton, a small town in North Carolina," said Wilson. "My family worked hard but college didn't seem a realistic possibility for me financially until I began to do well in football. I was a cornerback and running back for Lincolnton High. We won the class 2A Championship and I was named game MVP. That got the attention of some college scouts. Before I knew it, scholarship offers were coming my way. I picked N.C. State because of its excellent reputation and its proximity to my home town."

Wilson was a four-year contributor in college, starting 29 games and setting a school record with three interception returns for touchdowns. Still, without an invite to the combine, he knew he was on the bubble when draft weekend came.

"Honestly, I wasn't really sure," Wilson said. "It was tough not to have that combine invite but I did have a good pro day. When draft weekend came, I definitely had my hopes up."

Staying close to home with friends and family for support, Wilson waited for his phone to ring. Yet the call didn't come until the draft process had concluded. He now characterizes the draft as "the worst time of my life."

"I was bitterly disappointed," Wilson said. "But not too long after that, I heard from the Bears. I guess you could say I went from the deepest low to the highest emotion I could have within the space of a few hours."

Wilson was working with the second-team defense today, which is already a step up from last week when he was playing with the third team. Yet we're still early in the process and he knows there's a long road ahead of him.

"While NFL practices are much faster and more intense than what we experienced in college, they are close to the tempo of a college game day," he said. "It's that same situation where everybody is thinking, worried about that one rep. But we haven't played with pads yet. I am expecting things to get much more exciting when that happens."

For now, Wilson is taking things one day and learning from veteran teammates like Charles Tillman, whom Wilson calls "the best in the NFL."

"[Tim Jennings] wasn't out here today so I've had more on-field time with the starters," Wilson said. "That's a tremendous advantage for any rookie as far as the learning curve. You want to be out there every chance you get."

And Wilson's ultimate goal?

"To make the team of course," he said. "I want to contribute and be a positive force here in Chicago. But even more than that, I want to make my family and my hometown proud of me. They did so much to get me this far. Succeeding at this level is how I can begin to repay their kindness."


Beth Gorr has been covering the Bears for the last 12 years and is the author of Bear Memories: The Chicago-Green Bay Rivalry. She is currently working on a second book about early Bears history.
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