INDIANAPOLIS -- Maryland cornerback Josh Wilson, who works out tomorrow at the NFL scouting combine, is proof that, sometimes, there is a law of compensation at work.
For an NFL draft hopeful, he is considered a bit short and a tad light. At 5 feet 9 and 189 pounds, he is undersized, especially among some of the wide receivers he'll be asked to cover. For instance, the top-rated wide receiver working out at the RCA Dome over the weekend was Calvin Johnson of Georgia Tech, 6 feet 5, 239 pounds.
But while Wilson's height-weight specs are below usual NFL standards, he has both sprinter's speed and a razor-sharp intellect. He was the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference's award given to the top scholar-athlete among senior football players and his athletic resume includes sub-4.3 times for the 40-yard dash.
Wilson points out the too-short, too-light label was slapped on another former Maryland defensive back, Domonique Foxworth, now entering his third season with the Denver Broncos.
"He always showed me that it wasn't how big you are," Wilson said, referring to his former Terrapins teammate. "A lot of people just use their skills. God gives you skills, but you've got to know how to use your body and put your body in a certain position where you make yourself taller, you make yourself bigger."
Wilson has lofty ambitions for the 40-yard dash tomorrow.
He chuckled when asked if he thought he could break 4.3 seconds.
"I'm thinking about cracking 4.2," he said.
Oh, that's right. Along with speed and smarts, Wilson has apparently been given a large dose of still another quality - confidence.
"I've been dealing with this height thing since I got to college," he said.
When he was recruited to Maryland, Wilson said some there needed to be convinced he warranted a scholarship. So he attended an intrasquad camp, "and all the top receivers were there," Wilson said. "I shut them all down, and the next day I had a scholarship."
Then it was off to the ACC. As a senior for 9-4 Maryland, he had 55 tackles, 13 passes defensed and one interception.
"I may not be the biggest guy," Wilson said, "but I feel I'll still come up and strike you because I know how to position my body to hit you at just the right angle ... facing Calvin Johnson and Greg Carr [6-6, from Florida State], I was right in there with them."
By some pre-draft estimates, Wilson appears to be a first-day selection, meaning the first three rounds.
"He has very quick feet, he's smart, he's tough, he understands zone concepts," said Mike Mayock, NFL Network's combine and draft expert. "He won that ACC [academic] award for athletes, so he's the kind of guy who is going to appeal to a lot of teams because he's clean off the field. He has the corner skill set with the real quick feet and the change of the direction you like. He's a player that people don't talk about a lot but will get drafted higher than most people expect."
Wilson also brings an extra playing dimension. He was an effective kick returner, bringing back 31 kicks for a 27.3-yard average and one touchdown last season.
And then there's one more thing that Wilson says he has going for him.
His father, Tim Wilson, was the backfield mate of Earl Campbell on the Houston Oilers. The elder Wilson died in 1996 of a heart attack when Josh was 11. His son carries a worn football trading card of his dad and that same image is tattooed on his chest near his heart.
"The first year I played football, I wanted to play running back so bad, but the coach wouldn't give me a chance. So [his] father said you only get one opportunity, so when you get that one opportunity, you have to take it. I had that one opportunity and scored five straight touchdowns. ... From then on, I was starting at tailback and on defense," Wilson said.
"You can ask anyone who watches me," he added. "I always go hard in practice. I'm just as much a competitor in practice as I am in a game, because you never know what play is going to be your final play, what play is going to make that team want you."