Support the Timberjay by making a donation.

Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Former NFLer eyes new impact from sidelines

Patrick Slack
Posted 10/11/16

ELY - Chris Wilson achieved about all that can be done on a football field as a player.

Starred in high school? Check.

Stand out in college? He was inducted into his alma mater’s athletic …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Former NFLer eyes new impact from sidelines


ELY - Chris Wilson achieved about all that can be done on a football field as a player.

Starred in high school? Check.

Stand out in college? He was inducted into his alma mater’s athletic hall of fame last year at Northwood University in Midland, Mich.

He then worked his way into the NFL undrafted in 2007 with Washington and remained in the league through 2013.

Even still, a call from VCC head football coach Sterry Etheridge, and an opportunity to join the staff, helped show just how much more goes into the game than Wilson previously realized.

“It’s kind of funny, I had just moved back to my hometown of Flint, Mich., with a passion for mentoring and helping young men attain college scholarships. I started coaching high school football and doing some other things with my non-profit foundation,” Wilson said.

His name got on Etheridge’s radar, who asked Wilson about possibly coming to help coach the Ironmen.

“At first I wasn’t going to do it, but I just felt like it was a tug,” Wilson said. “I felt like I would check it out and see what it was about. I was never really trying to be a coach, I was really just trying to help young men from the life that I lived.

“I just knew that we all have what it takes; we just don’t all do what it takes. And it’s because we don’t know what it takes. So that knowledge of the game and the knowledge of the process is huge. I’m glad I came. I feel like all of my passions are tied up in coaching.”

Wilson was raised with the game of football, breaking down various styles and strategies with family growing up.

“It’s funny, I was already a football fan, football head, football junkie, whatever, I can already talk about all kinds of styles. I can remember sitting in the family room and watching the ‘85 Bears, listening to my dad and uncles talk about the 46 and Buddy Ryan and Mike Singletary and Refrigerator (William) Perry. And I can remember Don Shula with five-wide, all the different phenomenons of the game.”

But upon arriving at VCC, he found that while wins and losses mattered, they are far from the only important factor for a coach.

“I’ve always been around the game, so it’s not like something new I have to pick up and study,” Wilson said. “But I didn’t realize the hard work that comes along with coaching. I thought coaching was more about winning football games and things like that, but I’m learning that it’s a big act of service actually. And I like that.”

It has turned out to be a natural fit for Wilson, who along with his wife started the CSW Faith Foundation that aims to help youth succeed by achieving a college education.

Coming to VCC, he has been able to interact with players from a variety of backgrounds.

“So many different kids from different places, everybody has their own perspective,” Wilson said. “They have their own perception of what football is and what they have to do in order to be successful. Me being here, being someone who has accomplished the very thing they’re trying to accomplish, I can tell them so much.

“I think I have reached some guys, maybe some guys that have some hope, gave them some more hope and some more faith. Maybe some guys that didn’t have quite the expectations. Football is challenging. Some of the guys have stepped up to the challenge.”

And while very few players will go on to the NFL as he did, the game of football can be crucial in helping them in whatever path they follow.

“The cool part about the game of football is that it’s like the game of life,” Wilson said. “You can take these skills - whether you’re first-string, second-string, go on to get a Division I, Division II scholarship, go on to play Division III football - you can take this set of skills and apply it toward anything and be a leader. Just be a good man, whether that means being a good husband, good father, whatever that is.”

Once players have reached the NFL, they have learned a level of professionalism for what it takes to prepare for games while managing life outside of the sport, Wilson said.

At the college level, part of the challenge is teaching that discipline.

“I think I can give a better perspective of how to prepare for the game,” Wilson said. “No matter the lack of resources, you can still be organized and still give yourself an opportunity to win. And it’s those type of skills that help mold these young men.

“It’s a gradual infusion. It’s not necessarily one speech, it’s a mindset. You have a whole season to gradually instill. Maybe by the end of the season you get leaders that emerge.”

Wilson’s sacrifice in taking on the VCC challenge was tough, with his wife and three kids back home in Michigan. As he moves forward, he hopes to find a way to fulfill his desire to coach and shape young football players and still be near his family.

“Being away from my family is probably the hardest part of this,” Wilson said. “I’m just trying to figure out how to do it with the same passion, achieve the same goals in molding young men and teaching some football and have all of my family together.

“If I solve that puzzle the sky’s really the limit.”


No comments on this story | Please log in to comment by clicking here
Please log in or register to add your comment