Chief Concerns: Desmond Bailey (@CCWriterDez )
I remember a few years ago when I was studying Cinema, my screenwriting professor told me there’s two stories that everybody loves and that rarely fail no matter how many times they’ve been done: the story of the underdog and the story of redemption. He then went on to explain how the best stories find ways to intertwine the two.
The Kansas City Chiefs have such a story being written throughout their off-season workouts and practices. The main character? Rookie linebacker Ridge Wilson.
Wilson was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Chiefs after coming off a stellar senior season for the University of West Alabama Tigers. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound outside linebacker/defensive end led UWA in tackles with 69 including 18 for loss and 11 sacks en route to All-Gulf South Conference (GSC) and NCAA Div-II All-America honors.
At his pre-draft pro-day, Wilson posted a 4.76 40-yard dash to go along with 25 reps of 225 lbs on the bench press and a 3-cone drill time of 7.06 seconds – all numbers either rivaling or outperforming some of the more notable linebackers that were drafted.
Unfortunately, the reason can largely be attributed to a felony arrest on February 24th where Wilson was charged with “Trafficking a controlled substance” after police found a bag of Xanax Pills in his car and $1,947 cash in his pocket.
Wilson was consequently dismissed from the University of Kentucky where he had spent three seasons in a hybrid DE/OLB role and was set to return as a starter in his final season.
The arrest wasn’t Wilson’s first while playing for the Wildcats. In September of 2009, as a freshman, Wilson was arrested and charged with 4th-degree assault after an on-campus incident where he hit a woman – a known acquaintance of his and former high-school classmate – in her face. As a result he was suspended for one game.
Wilson, having exhausted his welcome at Kentucky, landed at West Alabama where he immediately sought to restore his name and reputation. He was helped immensely in that mission by UWA head coach Will Hall who laid the ground rules for Wilson right away:
When I was at UK I had a lot of schools calling me,” Wilson told Cameron Kiszla of the Tuscaloosa News last fall. “I felt like Coach Hall was honest with me and he was worried about my well-being. Some schools were talking about football, he was talking about classes and grades and everything.”
Coach Hall, unfazed by Wilson’s previously established big-school fame, made clear how things were going to go at UWA:
Ridge is a really good player, but he’s also a really good person. He bought in to the way we do things,” Hall also told Kiszla. “I said, ‘We won’t become you, you’ll have to become us.”
Wilson heeded Hall’s powerful words – staying clean on and off the field as well as humbling himself while amassing impressive statistics over the course of the season. He’s maintained his humility and work ethic ever since – carrying it over to the NFL and into Chiefs practice sessions.
On May 22nd, Chief Concern’s Stephen Brown shared this first-hand observation of Wilson during Chiefs OTA’s:
Something I saw at the end of practice that I liked, well after everyone had left the field. Tamba Hali and #60 (Wilson) were doing extra,”
That trend caught on with the rest of the defense. Here’s another report of Brown’s from 5/30/2013:
Tamba Hali has been staying after practice each day I’ve noticed. At first it was Hali and one other #60 Ridge Wilson, but Wednesday that number staying after with Hali grew to 16 players. Tyson Jackson, Justin Houston, Dontari Poe and Derrick Johnson to name a few were working extra with Hali.
Hali still stayed longer after all but Ridge Wilson had left.“
Wilson seems to understand the stakes and has nestled wisely under the wing of Hali – one of the hardest working players in the league. As an undrafted free agent, the odds are stacked against Wilson – primarily due to the ill-advised decisions of a past he works hard to distance himself from.
Right now Wilson is the underdog in a crowded field of players hungry for a spot on the Chiefs roster or practice squad. However, he has rendered himself a blank slate with zero sense of entitlement, an eagerness to learn, and an apparent willingness to put in the overtime. Hopefully, that bodes well for him as he continues on his road to redemption.
Talk to ya later