Tyrel Wilson doesn't expect to be chosen in next month's NFL draft and won't torment himself by watching the interminable seven rounds that extend over three days.
"I never have," Wilson said, "and I probably never will. … I'd rather go fishing."
But thousands of undrafted free agents have made NFL rosters, and scores — think Wes Welker, Kurt Warner, James Harrison, London Fletcher, Warren Moon and Tony Romo — have made the marquee. Like any other marginal prospect, all Wilson wants is a chance.
He was a star linebacker at Hampton High and a reserve defensive end for Virginia Tech. Especially productive as a sophomore and junior at Tech, Wilson saw his playing time and statistics decline last season due to a cranky knee and the emergence of promising sophomore Dadi Nicolas.
At 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, Wilson has long been small for his position, and further eroding his stock for the May 8-10 draft was an admittedly sub-par Virginia Tech pro day. But Wilson believes he rebounded well at regional combines in Baltimore and Detroit, fueling his considerable self-confidence.
"I'm an athlete," he said. "I played at Virginia Tech four years and I played with my hand in the ground playing d-end. And I've always been undersized. But every time I've been on the field I've been able to make plays and hold my own. We played Alabama the first game last year, and I held my own for being a 230-pound d-end. …
"I know once I get in somebody's camp it's going to be hard (to cut me). Once they see my playing ability and my hard work and effort, it's going to be one of those things that sets me apart from other players. … I don't care, the dude (on the other side of the line) can be 330 pounds … I'm going to wear him out all day. … I just have that dog in me that I just don't quit."
Given his limited size but exceptional quickness, Wilson found a niche as an edge rusher. His combined numbers for 2011 and '12 were 56 tackles, seven sacks and 16 quarterback hurries.
But after playing 300-plus snaps on defense each of those seasons, plus special teams, Wilson logged only 155 last year. He made 13 tackles, eight solo, three each against Alabama and Georgia Tech, and a single sack versus North Carolina.
Then came last month's pro day in Blacksburg, where Hokies seniors auditioned for scouts.
"It was very frustrating," said Wilson, who works out in Virginia Beach under the supervision of trainer Anthony Stringfield, "because you come out and want to do your best and be that No. 1 guy. It just wasn't happening. My times weren't horrible, but they weren't where I expected them to be, and I didn't feel as fluid as I needed to be in my position drills, seeing as how I was coming from d-end to playing outside linebacker. I just didn't feel as comfortable as I needed to be."
Wilson's agent, Hampton High and William and Mary graduate Will Harris, then steered him to one of the 14 regional combines the NFL conducts. Competing against approximately 200 others at the Baltimore Ravens facility, Wilson earned an invitation to the super regional April 12 at Ford Field, home stadium of the Detroit Lions.
Wilson is proud of his efforts in Baltimore and Detroit but has received minimal feedback.
"Throughout this process, I've called, exchanged text messages, and emailed with NFL team personnel regarding Tyrel," Harris said via email. "While you'll have a hard time getting any NFL team to be candid this time of year, there is some level of interest. I am not sure whether that will translate to a team using a late-round pick on Tyrel or even bringing him in as a free agent after the draft, as this is the deepest draft, at almost every position, in the last 15 to 20 years."
Wilson understands his pro football career may have to start in Canada and is set to participate in a British Columbia Lions tryout camp May 4 in Washington, D.C. He further understands that most sporting dreams are dashed and was wise enough to earn his sociology degree from Tech last May.
"I can adapt to anything," Wilson said. "Coaches ask what kind of player you are. I'm a hybrid. I'm not the biggest guy, but I'm strong enough to be down in the trenches. … I've got enough speed and athleticism to stand up and cover a tight end or a running back, whatever the case may be. …
"Whenever I get that phone call, I'm ready to go. I'm positive that I'm going to get picked up on somebody's team. If it has to be CFL for awhile, I'm fine (with) it. … It's going to happen. I didn't make it this far to not make it is the way I look at it."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun