Playing in the NFL has introduced 20-year-old Marquess Wilson to a whole new world of learning to play wide receiver — like watching film.
‘‘That’s one thing that’s helped me out — watching film,’’ said Wilson, the Bears’ seventh-round draft pick from Washington State who will turn 21 on Sept. 14. ‘‘In college, film wasn’t something I really keyed on. It was here that I’ve taken the step and watched film and studied the DBs.’’
Marquess Wilson during rookie mini-camp in May. | Sun-Times Media
It’s not that the 6-4, 184-pound Wilson wasn’t exposed to film — videotape, technically — under Mike Leach and wide receivers coach Mike Levenseller at Washington State. He just couldn’t get the hang of it. He’s actually learning how to learn under Marc Trestman, Aaron Kromer and Mike Groh.‘‘At Washington state, coach Levenseller, he preaches coverages. But I could never get ’em,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘At one point, I was like, ‘Coach, I just gotta play.’ But I picked up little things and worked on them with him. It helped me coming here. I was able to pick things up quickly here.’’
Wilson said he can see the difference film study makes. ‘‘Just knowing where the open spots are going to be when you’re running plays,’’ he said.
The youngest player in the NFL, Wilson credited his Bears teammates with helping him acclimate to professional football after a fractured finish to his college career. He was suspended for leaving practice and later quit the Washington State team last season, claiming mental and physical abuse by Leach — a charge he recanted.
‘‘Definitely, it’s a big accomplishment,’’ he said. ‘‘Just putting that behind me and coming into this great locker room and having the support system here, it’s amazing. Everybody on this team is looking out for each other, making sure we have our mind right when step on the field. I feel comfortable talking to anybody on this team. It’s great having that.’’
A year ago, Wilson was projected as a first- or second-round draft pick after setting Washington State single-season records with 82 receptions and 1,388 yards (with 12 touchdowns) as a sophomore in 2011, when he was a second-team all-Pac-12 selection. He was on a similar pace in 2012 before the wheels came off — he finished with 52 receptions for 813 yards (15.6 yards per catch) and five touchdowns. He averaged 17.0 yards per catch in his three seasons at Washington State.
But the fit of petulance that led to his suspension and eventual departure was a huge red flag for NFL scouts. Wilson was drafted in the seventh round and came into the NFL with a lot to prove, starting with his maturity level. The experience with the Bears has helped, he said.
‘‘I’ve grown up. I’ve matured,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘But I’m not even 21 yet. I still have that side that likes to have fun and is always goofy and stuff. But when it comes to football and on the field, it’s a mature me. That’s how I handle it.’’
He often talks about himself in terms of the entire rookie class. He is close friends with running back Michael Ford, cornerbacks Demontre Hurst and C.J. Wilson, defensive tackle Zach Minter and the other Bears rookies. The veterans have embraced them all, Wilson said.
‘‘When we first got here, we felt like we were one of the guys — the way they talked to us at practice or off the field in the locker room,’’ Wilson said. ‘‘That’s one thing that stuck out, how we came in here with open arms and everybody was so open with us.’’