The final day of the NFL draft is either the best day or the worst day in the lives of many college football players.
C.J. Wilson was watching the coverage on Saturday, the final day of the draft, and his name hadn’t yet been called. The former Lincolnton High School and North Carolina State University standout cornerback saw two teams with picks left — and neither had expressed any interest.
“I thought, ‘I guess this isn’t my year,’ when my agent called me,” Wilson said. “He said, ‘Congratulations, you’re a Chicago Bear.’”
The Bears picked up Wilson as an undrafted free agent on a three-year contract. Wilson, who is currently training at the N.C. State facilities in Raleigh, will attend the Bears’ rookie minicamp from May 10-12.
“It’s a blessing, just being able to showcase my talent one more time and prove to myself that I can play football,” Wilson said. “It’ll also give people hope back home — when I was growing up we didn’t have those guys out there saying that you could make it, giving a good example. Right now I’m just trying to give a good example to the people back home that, just because we’re a small town, we can make it. Just keep working hard and you can get your foot in the door.”
Lincolnton football coach Scott Cloninger said he was “very proud” that Wilson, the third player in Lincoln County history picked up by a professional football team, has a chance to play the game at the highest level.
“It’s a golden opportunity,” Cloninger said. “There are very few people who can say they’ve ever tried out or been on a professional football team. I know it’s a dream-come-true for him and his family. We’re very proud of him and we’re just hoping that his dream can come true some way.”
Wilson’s journey onto the Bears’ roster is far from over. He’ll have to make Chicago’s 53-man roster to get a shot at playing during the regular season.
“I look at it like I haven’t made it yet,” Wilson said. “I still have to make the roster. Once I make the roster I go to the next step. I’m going to break it down into steps and keep working hard and staying focused on making the roster.”
Wilson, one of the nine cornerbacks listed on the Bears’ preliminary roster, finished the 2012 college football season with 12 tackles, one interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for 14 yards. He said he likes the Bears’ defensive scheme and is looking forward to experiencing Chicago.
“They run the Cover-3, Cover-2 scheme so I feel like I’ll fit into that really well,” he said. “And I’m excited about the whole city of Chicago. I’m from a small town; I’ve never been to a city like that. I’m excited to be in that whole atmosphere.”
Wilson said he’s had an outpouring of support from his friends and family in Lincoln County.
“I’m getting tons of love and support, through Facebook and Twitter and Instagram,” he said. “People are coming up to me and saying, ‘I’m proud of you. Just keep working.’ I really appreciate that. It would be impossible without God and the support.”