With the NFL draft ending Sunday, the football season draws near.
Paducah native and Paducah Tilghman High School graduate George Wilson is entering his second season with the Tennessee Titans, and the safety is beginning his 11th season in the NFL.
The Titans finished 7-9 last season, which led to the firing of head coach Mike Munchak and the hiring of Ken Whisenhunt.
Wilson played in all 16 games last season and started three. He talked about the Titans' upcoming season with the Sun in the second part of a two-day series.
Q: There was some turmoil with the Titans last year, starting with quarterback Jake Locker getting injured and ending with Mike Munchak getting fired. Talk about the ups and downs the team had last season.
GW: We got off to a good start last season, but we weren't able to sustain that momentum. During the middle of the season, we got back into playoff contention. But for a variety of reasons, whether it's injuries or lack of execution on the players' part or just not being able to take advantage of the opportunities we had, we didn't make it. Several games we had last season we were either tied or had the lead in the fourth quarter and were unable to make the plays to come away with the win.
This year we have to learn from those mistakes and learn from those games and from those experiences, and when we get in the position to win, we'll make the plays to win it.
Q: Coach Ken Whisenhunt is the new guy in there, so what has he been like and what has he been implementing?
GW: We had an opportunity to work with coach Whisenhunt and his new staff during a recent mini-camp, and he's certainly changing the culture and the vibe around the facility. I think the guys are buying into his leadership style and his coaching style and are responding to the culture he's trying to introduce. We were able to get a picture of how things will be on the practice fields and in the meeting rooms, and they were able to evaluate the team. It was a great way to get the team off to a good start and get introduced to the schemes we're going to be running on offense and defense. It was also the opportunity to just get out there and play ball. We were able to get on the field, shake off the rust and start getting into football shape. We were able to see where we are as a football team right now. We're slowly beginning to see what our identity is going to be in 2014-15.
Q: Do you know how or if your role will change?
GW: I think that still remains to be seen. I'm sure I'll still be used on special teams, and they'll use my experience on the field and in the locker room. So right now we're in the competition phase where we're all trying to earn the opportunity to earn more time on the playing field. So we're just excited about the opportunities coach Whisenhunt and his staff are going to provide us with this year. Whatever I'm asked to do, whether it be on defense or on special teams, whatever the team asks me to do, I'm certainly willing to do, because I have double-digit years of playing experience but I've yet to see the playoffs. They talk about how in New England that they are willing to do whatever it takes, so that's the mindset I take to do whatever the team needs me to do to help us get to the postseason, when anything can happen. So that's all I'm looking for and playing for, a championship.
Q: The game hasn't changed that much, has it? You still really just need to have the heart and desire, and physical tools certainly help, to make it through.
GW: It's changed in the sense of how they call the game with some of the vicious hits that made the NFL known because of the physicality of the collisions you see. They want us to be more mindful of the health and safety of guys over the long term. They just want to be able to preserve guys' health for a longer period of time, because it is a physically taxing game. So they're trying to protect guys from the head shots and trying to make sure you don't leave the game being mentally or physically incapacitated. That's the biggest change.
But as far as the scheme and how the game is played, I don't think there's much of a difference in the game.
Q: You guys feel like you'll be a playoff team this year, right?
GW: Oh, absolutely. We definitely feel like we'll be in contention for the AFC South title. That's our first goal: To win the division and get the automatic-in into the playoffs. We know we're going to have our work cut out for us. Indy won the division and Houston has been a top team as well, so we as the Titans just have to bounce back and put our team back on the radar.
Q: Last question, you're just having a fun and a great time living your life?
I was having lunch with my grandparents at Starnes and we were talking about how the talent I have playing football has afforded me the opportunity to get an education, to put some money in my pocket, allowed me to live my dream, allowed me to see the world and allowed me to meet people I never would have thought I would be able to meet. It all came from having a dream of playing football. I never knew where the dream would take me, and it has taken me a lot of places and allowed me to meet a lot of people. I'm living a dream every day, whether it's on the field or off the field. When I wake up and my feet hit the floor, I tell God thank you for letting me live my dream and giving me the blessing to where I can bless other people. That's my mindset day-in and day-out. I know how privileged and how blessed I am and how much God has put favor on my life. For me to be able to live my dream is just a blessing.
Call James D. Horne, a Sun sports writer, at 270-575-8661 or follow on Twitter @psunsports.