Last Monday, Washington Redskins linebacker and defensive tackle Chris Wilson appeared on Sportsjourney.com’s broadcast with owner Lake Lewis. During the show Wilson, a multi-talented player and self-described “Jack of All Trades” announced that he is intrigued by a lot. While sports were the primary talk of the show, I found in listening to the discussion that “intrigued by a lot” was an understatement.
The beauty of the Sportsjourney broadcasts are that the conversation just flows naturally and, as the evening wore on; it became apparent that being a great linebacker is only one of Wilson’s goals.
Early on in the program, the defensive wiz said that he was trying to put a band together. He is learning to play the bass guitar and is attempting to get a few of his teammates to join his ensemble. Wide receiver Malcolm Kelly evidently has an electric guitar, fellow defensive lineman Kedric Golston is being recruited to play the drums and, although he hasn’t learned yet how to play, special teams standout and linebacker Lorenzo Alexander is being drafted to play keyboard.
Wilson says it’s important to be well-rounded.
Another one of Wilson’s aspirations is in the culinary world. More specifically, he has decided to create a barbeque sauce that he has dubbed “Uncle Ed’s 95 Sauce…” which will be “…coming soon to a local grocer near you.”
The things Chris Wilson says are not typical in any way, shape or form.
For instance, Wilson’s viewpoint on staying in shape during this lockout is worthy of note. During the show, he and Lewis discussed the players-only workouts. Many times, during the past couple of months, I have heard players say that they were staying in good physical shape so that after the lockout ends, they will be ready for football. Wilson, however, made the distinction that it is as important to stay in shape mentally.
“For me, it’s more mental,” he told his host. “I want to go in there and be sharp as far as calls, be sharp as far as what I’m seeing from the offense and that’s what it’s about… getting my brain acting faster. Athletically, I can do this but it’s about reacting.”
Wilson has a unique way of getting his point across – especially when he’s pumped up.
In continuing the discussion, Chris mentioned that he, wide out Anthony Armstrong and Lorenzo Alexander have been working out together. Part of competing, Wilson insisted, is conducting yourself in a professional manner. He and his fellow Redskins are as competitive as any athlete and will match up against any other player in the league. They are definitely keeping in shape and Wilson made it that clear in a way that only he can.
“We get it,” he said. “These free agents, they think we playin’. You know, free agents, we come out – I went D-II, Anthony was D-III, Zo went to Cal but, you know, Zo had been cut.
“And, you know, we just ain’t backing down, you know what I mean? Can’t nobody do nothing with us. I’ll vouch – I’ll stamp any of those guys. Put ‘em on the field and you’re not gonna be able to nothing with them guys, you know what I mean? This shirt used to be baggy.”
Wilson then became more serious.
“We’re getting after it,” he said. “And when you put yourself around guys like that, that’s what being a professional is all about. It’s not only about showing up and participating in a professional organization. It’s about doing just that – being a professional and taking care of business.
“That’s what we have in the locker room,” Wilson went on. “The majority of the guys are optimistic that there’s going to be a season and we’re going to take advantage of every opportunity in every way – individually as well as a team. That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing tomorrow (having the player workouts).”
Chris’s charity, the “CSW Faith Foundation” runs camps for kids in his hometown of Flint, Michigan (shout out to Flint from CW). The inspiration to “get on with it” came from his aunt, who has recently written a book. Having been thinking about doing the camp for a couple of years, he had been worried about making sure everything was done just right. This is admirable, but he realized that he was wasting time and so he finally decided to just do it.
Chris named his foundation the “Faith Foundation” because not enough kids in his hometown believe in themselves. He holds himself as an example of someone who, as a youngster, was not ‘crowned’ as someone who would succeed the way he has – i.e., going to a Division II school, being undrafted and yet still rising to the ranks of the NFL professionals through hard work, his faith and a strong belief in himself.
In a 2009 article from The Curly R, it says that Chris:
“…hails from Flint, Michigan where he often heard he was too small for football so he developed a philosophy of dominating the man in front of him and letting the rest take care of itself.
Since coming to Washington Chris has been a situational player, an undersized pass rushing defensive end with a quick first step. In two seasons with the Redskins Chris has registered 27 tackles and five sacks, which is a pretty good ratio, it would appear the defensive coaching staff knows how to use Chris.”
His philosophy obviously works.
Let us not forget that CW is the Washington player who recorded the last sack in the post-season for the Washington Redskins in 2007 against the Seattle Seahawks. Quarterback Matt Hasselback was the recipient of the sack and Wilson’s move forced a fumble. About the playoffs, Wilson says, “The last time the Redskins got there, C.W. was off his leash.” Once again, you gotta love the way #95 gets his points across.
(Speaking of “Jack of All Trades,” Wilson plays not only linebacker, defensive end and defensive tackle; he plays safety up at the goal line.)
Wilson is a great person but he is also a great teammate. It’s not unusual to hear players support their colleagues and that is as it should be. But in the case of the Redskins, last season, there was understandable, albeit slight, consternation in the locker room over the decisions that defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth made by choosing not to buy into the new defensive scheme, not make the conversion to nose tackle and not attend any of the voluntary team activities. Lots of players were open about the way they felt but and there is nothing wrong with that. It was interesting to me though, that as I went back through dozens of interviews with players as the situation with Haynesworth unfolded; I could not find a single one that Wilson gave where he said anything negative at all. This is no surprise as Chris Wilson is, by nature, a positive person.
I found this to be especially so when talking about last season in general. There were so many distractions off the field; Haynesworth’s and McNabb’s situation especially. But the linebacker is ready to move forward.
“I love to play football,” he said. “I love defense… My job is to be ready – to be prepared. And that’s what we’re doing right now. We’re learning the plays, learning the different positions, realizing the concepts of the entire defense… and I’ll leave the rest to Mike Shanahan.
“I mean, I believe in the system. I’m gonna buy into it. Y’know, that’s what I do. I buy completely into it.”
At this point, Lake Lewis brought up the cohesiveness he observed in the locker room last season, and even in the wake of Haynesworth letting his teammates down, seeing guys protect the former Titan. What Wilson said next is an example of why I never found any quotes from him last season that were negative.
Notice the great way Chris gets his point across:
“Oh yea… I’m going to ride him out till the end,” he asserted. “Because we know what he can do. You know, guys wouldn’t be upset if we didn’t know what he could do – if we didn’t expect more of him. Everybody knows Albert… he’s the most dominate player. As far as a man dominating another man, I haven’t seen anybody do it like Albert Haynesworth and that’s the truth of it.
“That’s just the truth,” he continued. “Do you agree? You ever see a grown man just get pushed back? Pushed down… another grown up?”
Wilson looked thoughtful as he went on.
“However, it’s about his decisions and you gotta be careful in this game. I don’t hold any grudges against Albert. It is what it is. I’m gonna call a duck, a duck. But Albert went through some things last year and, now he’s had a season to reflect on everything. If he and Mike Shanahan can put everything behind them… well, you know, you gotta forgive.
“But… you don’t want to be that woman that’s getting beat by her boyfriend and talking about ‘but he loves me’ you know?” Chris said with a grin. “You don’t want to be that either.”
Even though Wilson knows he doesn’t have to make the decisions of a head coach, he most certainly has opinions about the strength of a team and how to use its personnel. When discussing whether or not the Redskins need Albert Haynesworth to win, Wilson has an interesting perspective.
“I wouldn’t say we need him to take the next step,” he considered. “Football is not that type of sport. There are a lot of great players on the bench. You don’t need anybody. This is not basketball. Don’t let my praises (of Haynesworth) fool you. I mean, he’s a beast. But you gotta play within the scheme; you gotta be in your gap. You gotta know when to rush, when to play the run, you gotta know what the offense is trying to do, you gotta know the calls. There’s a lot that goes into this football thing and we have a lot of great players on defense. We stay in the top 10… well; last year was the first time since I’ve been there we haven’t been in the top 10.
“But I do feel like we need to just write something in stone because I felt like we were wavering like ‘Albert’s the enemy… Albert’s not the enemy’ and you can’t do that.”
Once again, Chris Wilson says it like no other:
“For lack of a better metaphor,” he said, “I’ll say, I got some pieces of Tupperware in my home that I can put in the microwave and they come out and they’re just fine. But not everything is microwavable so you gotta know what you’ve got and know how to use it and how to treat it.”
Lewis then added in agreement: “You can’t put a Styrofoam plate in the microwave.”
Wilson is constructive and upbeat in his philosophies. He feels like forward is the best direction.
The two men discussed the benching of quarterback Donovan McNabb and Wilson was very candid.
“The situation was embarrassing more than anything,” he said. “I’ve had time to reflect and it’s embarrassing. I’m like, ‘Man… that’s Donovan McNabb!’ I thought he was hurt. I found out everything on SportsCenter and so it’s even more so.
“I believe Mike Shanahan and Donovan can put everything behind them and move forward,” Wilson continued. “What you don’t want is a player coming in with a grudge. All that’s going to do is create distractions. We can’t have distractions.”
The thing that makes Wilson-the-Philosopher so interesting is the originality of his wisdom.
About safety Kevin Barnes’ play last year, he said: “Great attitude… great type of personality for the sport of football.”
Wilson brings the concept of personality-type being important to light and the notion of who fits into the NFL is complex according to #95.
“The NFL and all professional sports aren’t looking for a type of talent,” he explained. “They’re looking for a certain type of person. That’s how you sustain your career… because you have a mentality that won’t allow you to let all of this roller coaster of media and everything that’s going on affect you. You just refuse to believe [the negative press]. You’re always going to believe in yourself as well as put in the work, the effort, to make yourself better.”
At one point, Wilson remarked, “People think, ‘I gotta be Michael Jordon to make it to the league.’ No. You can work your way into a position. Even Michael Jordon wasn’t ‘Michael Jordon’ when he came into the league. He had to become ‘Air Jordan’.
“Motive dictates how you go about [yourself/your business],” he said. “If your motive is to be the richest, that’s not necessarily a bad thing but you can be rich and be nice. When your motive is to build something and go about doing things to achieve a certain goal, you go about it in a more genuine, a more sincere way.”
He then complimented Lewis and allowed as how he was “doing it” that way.
“If you’re going to burn bridges, you’d better be a good boat-builder,” was one of my favorite quips from the linebacker.
“It doesn’t matter that I’m not the coach’s favorite,” Wilson says to kids involved in sports. “It doesn’t matter that nobody else believes in me. If I can condition myself to win and impress somebody, I’ll have that opportunity.”
By the way, how many people know that Mr. Wilson also dabbles in film editing? How many know that he revamped teammate London Fletcher’s YouTube highlights? Lake Lewis played basketball at Penn State so he may be seeing his highlights up on YouTube one day soon if the multi-talented, multi-faceted Chris Wilson gets hold of them.
It was just the kind of night where philosophy reigned. Lewis, who has his own admirable words-of-wisdom, closed out the show the way he always does.
“Spend time with family and friends,” he said. “Leave everyone else alone.”