|05-17-2007, 04:31 AM||#1|
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Arcadia, CA
Kiszla: Wilson leaves big cleats to fill
Wilson leaves big cleats to fill
By Mark Kiszla
Denver Post Staff Columnist
Article Last Updated: 05/17/2007 12:02:26 AM MDT
Football makes for a great game and a crummy business.
So it's nothing against Broncos linebacker D.J. Williams, nothing against him at all. But as Williams stands in the sun on the practice field, proudly wearing No. 55 and speaking eloquently about the responsibility of leadership, one nagging thought buzzes in my brain.
Right now, why can't I be talking to Al Wilson instead?
I miss Wilson.
But not nearly as much as the Broncos do.
The departure of Wilson from Denver leaves a hole much larger than the veteran linebacker's 6-foot, 240-pound frame. You keep listening for a big, booming voice that's gone. His absence weighs heavy on this team.
Williams, counted on to take Wilson's spot on the field, knows exactly what I'm talking about.
"It's a huge void missing on this team," Williams says. "I'm a free- and-easy guy, but I do feel the weight."
The stark, black-and-white decals stuck to the back of Denver helmets will serve as a constant reminder to honor the memories of Darrent Williams and Damien Nash, who both died suddenly and shockingly since the team last played a game.
But with all due respect to those dearly departed young men, the player and leader the Broncos will miss most on the field and in the locker room is Wilson.
He earned five selections to the Pro Bowl.
Then, when a scary neck injury suddenly made Wilson a bad investment risk, the Broncos gave him a pink slip in April. Done in Denver. At age 30.
Great player. Crummy business.
"The night after it all went down and I found out Al got released, I called him. And it was very emotional for me," Williams says. "I look at him as more than a teammate. There might not have been that much difference between us in terms of age, but he was a father figure to me. Al was the guy who showed me the ropes in the NFL."
For anyone who has been around Colorado long enough to know a Rocky Mountain oyster from a pearl of wisdom, it's an undeniable truth that the roughest political job in this state is held by the Broncos quarterback. So bless Jay Cutler. He will either consistently lead the way to the end zone or eventually get run out of town.
But, in a Denver locker room shaken by back-to-back tragedies, maybe the hardest football cleats to fill will be those Williams is inheriting as the replacement for Wilson, who delivered and took so many tough hits for this team it's a wonder the veteran linebacker's neck didn't start hurting a whole lot sooner.
Football is not all X's and O's. Although talent usually wins, skill without heart makes for a team without soul. Why championships are never won on paper is as easy to explain as typing this next sentence on a page.
"C'mon, Al, get 'em going."
How many times did Broncos coach Mike Shanahan shout that request to his middle linebacker during the past eight years, when the Denver defense needed to make a stand?
Wilson tackled hard and shot straight, stood up and accepted responsibility. Win or lose, he was always there, as much a part of the Colorado landscape as Pikes Peak.
The crummy part of the NFL is nothing or nobody lasts for long. But what's so great is a new hero might be only one big play away.
Go ahead. Get excited about running back Travis Henry or tight end Daniel Graham or cornerback Dré Bly or any of the key acquisitions recently made by the Broncos.
But, in his fourth season with the team, for Williams to step up and play as big as the promise he brought with him as a first-round draft choice in 2004 will be as critical as anything Denver's aspirations of winning the Super Bowl.
Wilson was more than a linebacker. For example: He was the football emcee, who always gathered the Broncos for practice, cracking a joke to start the smiles flowing and the blood pumping.
On a glorious spring day, at the first formal workout since Wilson's departure, Williams could be found in front of his teammates, trying to start it up all over again.
"I give myself a B-and-a-half. Not a B-plus, not a B-minus, it was a score of 86, somewhere in between," says Williams, critiquing his debut in Wilson's old gig.
Here's the thing. In a great game and a crummy business, sentimentality can barely last as long as the time between snaps.
Is Williams ready to plug the gaps and fill the leadership void the Broncos now have on defense?
He had better be ready.
For the Broncos and Williams, there's no other choice.
Staff writer Mark Kiszla can be reached at 303-954-1053 or email@example.com.
|05-17-2007, 05:36 AM||#3|
Friend of the unsung
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: London UK
Phew! - Kizsla's gone back to being his negative, sniping self once more, reality is restored. All that creaming over Cutler recently had got me thinking I'd slipped into a parallel universe for minute there....
Last edited by chrisp; 05-17-2007 at 05:42 AM..
|05-17-2007, 06:18 AM||#4|
Join Date: Jul 2001
Location: Hot Springs, Ouachitah
I've never heard such crap in my life.
|05-17-2007, 09:08 AM||#5|
Friend of the unsung
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: London UK
|05-17-2007, 11:52 AM||#6|
highly touted recruit
Join Date: Mar 2006
personality really does make a huge differencoi in the team's perfomance in practce and in games...been there myself on both sides of the coin. al is gonna be missed, no doubt, too good of a guy not to miss. but this team has other leaders, the whole void does not have to be filled by DJ alone, john lynch, dre bly, champ...there are a lot of leaders on the defense that can combine to try and fill that leadership/personality void.
|05-17-2007, 11:58 AM||#7|
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: Provo, Utah
I was really curious to see how this would affect our team with Wilson gone, looks like it is a big hole.