I got hit by Adrian Wilson. Sure. Hit, shoved, bumped, brushed, duped and mocked. But that’s life on the sideline as the pencilneck sideline radio guy.
It’s inevitable and unavoidable. You get your pen hit out of your hand. Your notebook smacked to the ground. Beware the punter, kicker & long snapper, who like to joke they’re aiming for you during warm-ups.
Look out for the hit ‘n run forearm shiver when it’s deemed you’re too close to the bench area. And fear the final moments of a big win when your headphone volume leaves you unaware (cue the Jaws impending doom sound effect) of what’s coming next. Namely – ice, smelling salts, snowballs, rolls of athletic tape, or the proverbial fountain of fluid from a water bottle at long distance.
All in great fun, mind you. It’s absolutely nothing like what AW did to opponents. (Otherwise, this would be an obituary instead of a blog). But, just like quarterbacks, I learned to constantly ask myself – where’s #24?
Now, we’re done looking. The next time we see his name & number will be in the Cardinals Ring of Honor. And attention wide receivers, it’s not going anywhere.
Larry Fitzgerald will always be the most iconic Arizona Cardinal. By far, the most important and valuable draft pick in Arizona history. If nothing else, Fitz resonates on a national basis, something no other sports entity in Arizona can currently claim (unless you count Scottsdale resident Danica Patrick).
But Adrian Wilson brought as much loyalty as he did lumber. And, at the time, that was far from the norm. Anquan Boldin had the same level of ultimate locker room respect, but even Q felt the need to leave. Not AW. It would’ve been easy and, ultimately, forgiven by AZ fans. But not A-Dub. He re-signed long-term contracts not once, but twice.
And let’s not forget that a year in the NFL should be considered a dog year (7x) in virtually any other profession. Between staying healthy, staying productive, and staying away from being a salary cap casualty, lasting a dozen years in the NFL as a position player is staggering.
So, if we hit “zoom out” for a moment, I do believe we have the rare perfect storm in sports where all parties actually got their money’s worth: the franchise player, the franchise itself, and the fans of the franchise.
Alas, that doesn’t mean that come Sundays in September, I won’t be conditioned to still look for Adrian Wilson. And thing is, rarely did he ever say a word on game day. Didn’t have to. The eyes behind the facemask conveyed the message that his shoulder pads delivered. Heck, I’ll even miss the good-natured Deacon Jones head slaps that sent a message as well.
But, you know what? We all got hit by Adrian Wilson.
And, that’s why, if we think about what he did in his career and what it meant, when it comes to Arizona sports history, AW will serve as the definition of a true impact player.