Senior Marc Wilson of Farmington, Conn., has a verbal agreement to play with the NFL's Arizona Cardinals for three years pending he makes the team out of training camp.
Wilson, a business major, received the phone call he had been waiting for Saturday night.
Wilson, the Hawks' standout receiver last season hoped he would receive a call letting him know he had been selected in the National Football League Draft or signed as a free agent by one of the NFL's 32 teams.
Wilson's dreams came true around 8:15 Saturday night when he answered the phone and his agents, Harry Sherr and Dave Weinshell, told him they had a verbal commitment on a free agent contract from the Cardinals, who had been to the Hilltop five times from last spring through the fall to see Wilson in person. His agents said the deal was basically done, but there was paperwork to fill out and fine print to comb through.
Then around 9:00, Wilson's phone rang again.
"I was hoping it was good news," Wilson said. "And it was."
Sherr and Weinshell called back to confirm they had an agreement with the Cardinals on a three-year, non-guaranteed deal, pending Wilson makes the team out of training camp.
"It was a real surreal feeling and really didn't sink in until Sunday morning," Wilson said. "It was crazy – I didn't know what to think. All of a sudden my agents said I was an Arizona Cardinal – I was ecstatic."
"I knew there was such a slim chance I was going to get drafted, but my dad wanted to watch the draft," Wilson said.
"I had a chance to meet with my family that night," Wilson said. "Then by Sunday morning it was sinking in. And Sunday night I was running sprints on the Grappone Stadium turf."
Wilson, who added, "No days off!" after telling of his Sunday night itinerary, knows he cannot afford to rest. Undrafted free agents need to work that much harder to get noticed and make the final squad.
"Obviously it's very good," Saint Anselm football head coach Patrick Murphy said. "It validates the type of student-athletes we're recruiting, the type of coaching we're giving them and the direction the program is going. Hopefully it's not an anomaly. A couple of the underclassmen drew interest from the scouts that were here to see Marc. We have to continue to bring those type of student-athletes to campus, but it's obviously exciting."
So just what did the Cardinals see in Wilson?
"For [Wilson], his speed is going to help tremendously," said his wide receiver coach at Saint Anselm, Robin Bowkett. "He's a constant 4.5 [40-yard dash] guy. He runs good routs, gets off the line well – he's not a great blocker, but has a great willingness to block. He knows what he needs to work on to make the team and is doing that. He has to stay healthy, make plays and pick things up quickly. He understands what he needs to do to make the squad and the mentality he has to have. If he picks it up and makes plays, he's going to be around."
"Ultimately, if he's not fast, we're not having this conversation," Murphy said. "If he's not tough, we're not having this conversation. If he doesn't have a high football IQ, we're not having this conversation. He has all of those attributes, which is why he's drawn a lot of interest and why he has the opportunity he has. Now he's got to continue this when he gets into camp."
The Cardinals fly Wilson out to Arizona for their four-day rookie camp from May 10-14. If everything goes well, Wilson, who received a small signing bonus from the Cardinals, will spend nearly a week back home in Conn. before heading to voluntary workouts on May 20. Full training camp begins the second week of July with 90 players entering and only 53 making the final roster.
"Obviously, [the Cardinals] have Larry Fitzgerald, one of the best receivers in the league, and Michael Floyd was their top pick this year," said Wilson, who is already listed on Arizona's roster as No. 89. "They have a couple of other receivers back, who saw some time last year, so I'm fighting for the fifth and sixth wide receiver position. Those guys make it on special teams first. Hopefully I can make my way there and then hopefully be catching balls."
His Saint Anselm coaches know that is true, but also know Wilson has the perfect make up for that to happen.
"In today's NFL with smaller rosters, teams are looking for guys who can do multiple things," Murphy said. "Marc already knows how to do that. He's played every position on offense except the offensive line. On defense, he's played every position, but linebacker and defensive line. That's what separates him from other guys. He's going into this knowing he has to run down every kick, he has to run down every punt, he has to make every block, he has to catch every ball and be on every special team he can."
"His versatility is going to help him a lot, "Bowkett said. "He's got to be like Julian Edelman from the Patriots, which is a good comparison. He's got to play special teams. He's got to be a special teams stud. He's got to play defensive back if they want him to. He's a smart football player and that's going to help him get on the field. It's the whole package, not just being a receiver."
Bowkett added that Arizona plays in the Hall of Fame Game this year, which is nationally televised. The Pro Football Hall of Fame Game is an annual NFL exhibition game that is held the weekend of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's induction ceremonies. The game is played at Fawcett Stadium, which is located next door to the Hall of Fame building in Canton, Ohio. It is traditionally the first game in the NFL's preseason, marking the end of the NFL's six-month offseason.
"He's going to be on TV, get out there in the third or fourth quarter and try and make some plays," Bowkett said. "So that will be fun."