Few college players have the luxury of playing for a former NFL head coach prior to their jump to the professional ranks.
New Jacksonville Jaguars safety Jarrod Wilson got his chance to play for a proven NFL play-caller in his senior season at Michigan. In his final year in Ann Arbor, Wilson played under the tutelage of former San Francisco 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Under Harbaugh, Wilson started a career-high 13 games and produced his strongest college season. The Akron, Ohio native collected career bests in tackles and pass breakups and tied his top mark in interceptions.
After playing three seasons under Brady Hoke, Wilson was able to excel in his first year in a new program. He said his experiences with both coaches helped prepare him for the NFL and the Jaguars.
“So far there are a lot of similar things,” Wilson said. “I had two coaches during my time [at Michigan], Coach Hoke and Coach Harbaugh. It’s pretty much a similar style to how everything is ran and organized.”
He routinely played in front of 100,000-plus in “The Big House,” so Wilson is no stranger to the spotlight. Answering media questions and battling through the tremendous pressure associated with the job are commonplace for him.
However, now he’s fighting for a job, something that can wear on young players as they look to make their marks in the league.
Despite going undrafted last month, Wilson found himself an ideal spot to kick-start his young NFL career. Wilson signed with the Jaguars shortly after the selection process, after the team failed to draft or sign any other safeties.
“It just felt like after I didn’t get drafted that the Jaguars were the best fit for me,” Wilson said. “Position-wise, it gives me the best opportunity to make the 53-man roster.”
Those active roster aspirations are realistic for Wilson, who will battle with the likes of Josh Evans, Craig Loston, Peyton Thompson and Earl Wolff for a spot. While those competitors offer appeal of their own, the safety unit itself isn’t stuffed with several would-be superstars.
Much like Wilson, holdovers Loston and Thompson started their careers as undrafted free agents. Loston was able to stick after a short stint on the practice squad as a rookie. Wilson will now look to not only duplicate Loston’s success but surpass his new teammates on the depth chart.
With the versatility to play both free and strong safety, the odds may be in Wilson’s favor.