The year of the cornerback

It is the year of the cornerback in the NFL. It doesn't matter if you came from a big-time program, a small school, or anywhere in between. The line forms and jostling for position ensues. When the opportunity arises, there is no other choice but to take it.

It began during the Senior Bowl for Stanford cornerback Stanley Wilson.

With Antrel Rolle, Adam Jones and Justin Miller sitting out and an ankle injury relegating Carlos Rodgers to the sidelines, Wilson had a chance to bump up his status and join the elite.

A shade less than 6 feet tall, Wilson had a strong week in Mobile and teams showed strong interest in him. The Chicago Bears tailed the former high school running back around the field and pinned him down for a meet and greet. The Jets and Patriots were also among the teams to show interest.

"You really get to show your talent for your football and athletic ability on the field," Wilson said of his time in Mobile. He also added he had something to prove: "That I definitely have toughness and aggressiveness, and that I have the ability to play as a shut-down corner in the NFL. I think a lot of people think that I'm a little bit smaller than the other corners that are ranked really high, but with my aggressiveness and tenaciousness, I can get the job done in the NFL. That's mainly what I wanted to come out there and show, that I have the same, if not the better, abilities as the rest of the guys who were at the Senior Bowl."

Building upon a strong senior season at Stanford, Wilson continued to show he has the skills to run with any receiver on the field.

At the combine, Wilson showed quickness, running a 4.42 forty but injured himself and had to pull out before running the short shuttle and three-cone drill. A former track star, he recovered in time for his Pro Day on March 9 and turned in a short shuttle of 4.21 seconds, the three-cone drill in 6.75 and the long shuttle in 11.08.

Teams know he has the speed to play cornerback but there have been some concerns over his ability to play physical. It is a trait that Wilson knows he has to work on and more specifically, Wilson believes it is about gaining a few pounds.

His goal has been to add five pounds of muscle to his frame. He weighed in at 186 pounds and feels a shade over 190 would benefit him. Anything more than that and Wilson fears he would lose his trademark speed.

"It's just about finding that fine line where I can get optimal speed and still have a good playing weight," he said.

With receivers getting bigger and stronger, playing press coverage has taken on a new dimension.

While the son of former Cincinnati running back of the same name realizes jamming is essential and is a trait he can master, he knows the emphasis on the 5-yard rule is where he can really separate himself from the pack.

Instead of getting flagged at the line, Wilson says he has the makeup speed to stay with any receiver in the league.

"I consider myself an all-around corner," said Wilson. "So once we're downfield and it's running, I think I can show my talent a lot more because I think I have good leaping ability and the ability to make plays on the ball. Because of that rule and me not being able to touch them, I think that's kind of what I've been doing a lot of in college. We didn't do a lot of press-man and stuff like that; we played a lot of off-Cover Three or soft-Cover Two. That will help me play at the next level."

With so many teams in the market for a cornerback, Wilson will likely hear his name called during the first day of the draft.

Although his father is serving a 22-year sentence in a California state prison for stealing about $130,000 worth of property from a Beverly Hills home to feed his drug habit, the younger Wilson works hard at being a model citizen on and off the field.

"A lot of guys now in the NFL, the people in charge, the coaches and player personnel, are looking for guys that are stand-up, quality guys," he said. "They want people … you see people like Randy Moss walking off the field and stuff like that. When you have someone who can be a leader outside of football and who can be a positive role model for young people, someone they're looking up to. They can definitely see that I'm that kind of guy. I'm just trying to prove myself out there and give a good light about me in general, on and off the field."

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