CHARLOTTE -- You probably don't know much about the Carolina Panthers' next big thing at cornerback, and unless you've been breaking down preseason tape, you haven't seen much out of him either.
But according to scouts and coaches and teammates, you'll hear about C.J. Wilson soon enough.
Wilson's in the pipeline, and everyone who's watched him develop insists he's going to be a player for the Panthers sooner rather than later.
"He's a player in the making," cornerback Ken Lucas said. "It's just whenever he gets his opportunity."
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Who knows when that might be, since he's only played in two games this year, presently buried behind Lucas and Chris Gamble and Richard Marshall. Veteran Dante Wesley plays ahead of him, too, but that's for special teams, not because he's a better pass defender (it's not close). If you're honest about it, you'd have to acknowledge that Wilson wouldn't even be here now if Ricardo Colclough had called a cab instead of getting arrested for drunk driving on cut day.
But that doesn't dampen the Panthers' enthusiasm for their 2007 seventh-round pick out of Baylor, who's become an underground favorite of personnel types who take glee in finding diamonds in the rough. Athletic and long-armed, with the size to play physical defense, they think he's on the way to becoming a contributor.
"We feel like we've got some talented young guys, and he's one of them, it's just a matter of developing them," general manager Marty Hurney said.
The Panthers originally tried to make the 6-1, 195-pounder a safety. That was out of need at the position more than anything particular to Wilson, and he ended up on the practice squad before a late promotion.
"It was all right at first, because I thought it was going to give me an opportunity to be more rounded, like a Rod Woodson, not just playing a single-position player," Wilson said of moving to safety. "But once they dropped that 30-pound playbook on me, things changed a little bit."
This year, they moved him back to what he and the Panthers consider his natural position, and he's flourishing behind the closed gates of the practice field.
Receiver Steve Smith, who often draws Wilson in practice drills, gives his quiet endorsement. "He works his tail off, I know that," Smith said. "We haven't seen him in a real game. But I wouldn't say I'd be nervous. I think he'd be able to hold his own. With time and exposure, he'd be able to adapt and get up to speed."
Lucas is more effusive.
"He has all the tools you want in a corner -- big, long arms, fast, good feet," Lucas said. "I mean, he has everything you want. He can press, he can play off, and he has the right attitude. When you're out there just working on your craft every day, you should get better if you have the right attitude.
"That's something he's been taking pride in, going out there getting better every day. He doesn't complain at all -- he really doesn't say anything -- he just goes out and does his work and when he goes out there and plays scout team, that's when he's working.
"He's going to be a very good corner when he gets his opportunity to play, and I truly believe that."
Wilson accepts the compliments with a laugh, as he does most things. He's got an easy smile and an eager-to-please manner than makes him the butt of some jokes. In fact, when he heard a lot of people were praising him, he thought it was a put-on at first. But he rattled off half the roster when asked who's helping him, said he's always listening as he waits for his chance to play.
"If they say I'm coming along then I must have taken a step; but I feel like I'm still learning, man," Wilson said. "I feel like my time is coming, and all the things I want to achieve on a personal note will come.
"You can't rush greatness, and the way I feel is if you're put in a position to learn stuff, when your time comes, you can't make an excuse. And if you're learning it all, when you get a chance to be on, then it's something your mother can be extra proud of."