David Wilson already has mentally prepared himself for the emotional roller coaster that may await him this week in the NFL draft.
Though he ran for a Virginia Tech single-season record 1,709 yards last season, posted 40-yard dash times of 4.49 seconds at the NFL combine and 4.35 seconds at Tech's pro day, put up a 41-inch vertical jump and showed his ebullient personality in interviews with more than 75 percent of teams in the NFL, the draft is an inexact science.
Wilson, a 5-foot-10, 206-pound Danville native who left Tech after his junior season, is projected to be picked anywhere from late first round to early third round in the draft, which begins Thursday night and continues through Saturday.
"I think I'm going to be shocked on draft day," Wilson said. "It might be a good thing, or it might be a bad thing, but I know I'm going to be shocked."
Of course, Wilson talked about his anticipated shock with a chuckle. Just like most of his days at Tech, nothing seems to bring the kid down.
He didn't grow up a fan of any particular NFL team — instead he admired the play of certain players including Michael Vick and Terrell Owens — so he was able to go into interviews with teams with an open mind.
Wilson flew out to have on-site visits with personnel from the Cleveland Browns, San Francisco 49ers, Tampa Bay Bucaneers and New England Patriots. He had a workout in Blacksburg with the Miami Dolphins, and he spoke on the phone with about 18 other NFL teams.
There's certainly no shortage of interest in Wilson, so what are the criticisms he hears most?
"The only ones I've heard are I need to get better in pass protection, and I need to take care of the football," said Wilson, who fumbled the ball seven times and lost four fumbles in his junior season. "They always understand (why the fumbles happened), but they bring it up because they want me to get better. It's not something like, 'We don't think we're going to draft you because of this.' "
ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper also mentioned fumbles as a significant concern for teams looking at Wilson. Yet, Kiper doesn't believe Wilson has bad hands for a running back.
"If he can figure (the fumbles) out and eliminate that from being a problem, fine," Kiper said. "He's got good hands out of the backfield. He had a lot of long runs, 30-plus yard runs in six of the last seven games this year, which is impressive. Blocking is going to have to be something that he works on at the pro level."
Todd McShay, Kiper's draft analysis counterpart at ESPN, said he stood next to Wilson at the Sugar Bowl and was impressed with how Wilson is put together physically. McShay still thinks Wilson needs to improve his on-field vision and ability to catch the ball out of the backfield.
"He's impatient at times," said McShay, who like Kiper sees Wilson as a likely second-round pick. "You can see some of the highlight runs, the negative runs where he refuses to go down and loses a lot of yards. … There is a little bit of tunnel vision in his game."
Despite the perceived negatives in his game, Wilson said teams he's spoken with are far more interested in discussing his creativity as a runner and, much to his delight, his undervalued toughness. He led the nation in yards after contact last season, gaining 990 yards in the category — 267 more than Trent Richardson, who is expected to be the first running back taken in the top-10 picks of the draft.
"If I was like Brandon Jacobs' size (6-4 and 264 pounds), and if I was that kind of runner, then they'd all be like, 'Yeah, that kind of toughness is what we expect'" Wilson said. "They expect me to make a lot of guys miss without trying to get touched, and trying to be elusive rather than being physical."
Wilson didn't get invited to New York City by the NFL to attend the draft, which is just fine with him. He plans to be in Danville and watch the draft Thursday with his mother, father, brother and sister. On Friday and Saturday, he said he might gather with a few former Tech teammates to watch the draft.
Like most players that go through the pre-draft interview process, Wilson won't ever forget the strangest question he was asked. It had nothing to do with his penchant for spontaneous back flips or rabbit-catching in Tech's drill field or his love of burning rubber in his brand new black Dodge Challenger SRT. Instead, it was about lifestyle choices — a choice he never thought he'd have to defend.
"They asked why don't I smoke or drink?" Wilson said. "I didn't have an answer. I just looked at most of them like, 'Huh?' I think I eventually just said it wasn't appealing to me.
"I know it's all part of it. They want to know everything."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun