The journey from an infamous shoe-throwing incident to NFC Defensive Player of the Week is a fascinating one for Arizona Cardinals DB Marco Wilson.
In 2020, a 21-year-old Wilson picked up the shoe of LSU’s Kole Taylor and threw it, resulting in an unsportsmanlike penalty that gave the Tigers a first down and contributed to their eventual win.
Florida’s loss removed the Gators from College Football Playoff contention.
Fast forward two years and Wilson is named the NFC Defensive Player of the Week after a Thursday Night Football performance headlined by three tackles, two passes defensed, and most notably, a pick-six (with a front flip into the end zone) that gave the Cardinals the momentum needed to win a crucial game.
Wilson overcoming stigma of unfortunate incident
Sadly, it is impossible to discuss the path of Wilson to the NFL without mentioning the shoe-throwing incident from his college days.
Wilson put up very impressive numbers at his Pro Day. A 4.37 40-yard dash, 26 bench reps, and a 43.5 inch vertical jump are the numbers of a first or second round cornerback in most draft years.
His athletic freakishness was not enough to overcome concerns for many teams and he fell to the fourth round where he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the 136th overall pick.
Wilson’s first season in the NFL was not pretty, which to be fair, is a trait shared by the majority of first year players at one of the toughest position in football.
In 2021, Wilson saw action in fourteen games and earned an overall PFF defensive grade of 52.9 for the season, including a 52.1 grade on coverage.
Wilson surrendered 524 yards and 7 touchdowns in his rookie campaign and allowed a 129.8 passer rating when targeted. Bad numbers by any definition.
His second season also started on a bad foot, giving up over 300 yards in seven games played but other key metrics have taken a noticeable dip. In 2022, Wilson has only allowed one touchdown and his passer rating when targeted has fallen precipitously to 82.0.
Already trending in the right direction, Thursday’s performance against the Saints was one of the first glimpses of the type of player Wilson has the potential to become.
The sole touchdown scored on Wilson came early on Thursday night when Andy Dalton hit Rashid Shaheed on a 53-yard bomb that he took straight to the house. The mental image of Wilson desperately holding onto Shaheed’s shirt and being pulled in the end zone is a tough one to erase.
However, Wilson did erase that image later in the first half. After the two minute warning, Dalton targeted Marquise Callaway and a bad ball ended up in the hands of the second-year cornerback.
Taking it back 38-yards, Wilson did a memorable front flip into the end zone that bought him complete redemption for his earlier missed assignment.
The pick-six gave the Cardinals a lead that wouldn’t be relinquished the rest of the night. A night that included another pick-six from a young Cardinals defender. Isaiah Simmons snagged a ball and returned it 56-yards for a touchdown just one drive after Wilson’s impressive play.
Minus the blown play to Shaheed, Wilson only surrendered 21 yards the rest of the night.
The physical traits are clearly there. Wilson’s size and speed are heavily sought after traits in the modern NFL and if he can continue to develop as a true outside corner, he could be a key piece of a young and talented Cardinals defense.
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What did Wilson have to say?
Wilson himself had quite a bit to say about his first career interception.
On seeing the ball bobble in the air after the bad pass to Callaway, Wilson thought “Get the ball. Get the ball and just go score, I saw an open grab, so I had to go score.”
When asked if his teammates were surprised by the pick, Wilson had a humble answer that acknowledges the work he still has to do to reach his full potential.
“I wouldn’t say I have the best hands, but every day after practice I’m for sure working on my hands.”
Wilson also gave out some high praise to his fellow Cardinal, Isaiah Simmons for his pick-six.
“It was a great way to finish off the half and I think it gave us great momentum to come out and finish the game in the second half.”
He also noted that Simmons’ celebration was better than his own front flip into the end zone saying, “I had the cooler dive but if you saw Zay’s dance—it was pretty cool.”
First award of the year for the Cardinals
Wilson’s selection as DPOW for Week 7 of the 2022 NFL season was the first of the year for any Cardinal and came at a crucial point in their season.
Entering Thursday night, the Cards were 2-4 and desperately searching for a home win after dropping eight straight in State Farm Stadium, the longest home losing streak in the league that went back to Oct. 28, 2021.
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