GREENWOOD — Somebody in Greenwood has a cell phone photo of Tyler Wilson learning he was taken by Oakland in the NFL Draft.
The Raiders took the former Arkansas quarterback in the fourth round with the 112th overall pick on Saturday
Saturday, Wilson planned to watch the draft at his parents’ home in Greenwood. But he was getting restless, so he decided to run to the Walmart Supercenter to pick up a few things. While he was there, a stranger approached and asked for a photo. As Wilson posed, his phone began ringing.
“I was fed up with watching so we just got out and then get the phone call there in Walmart, of all places, but that’s good being from Arkansas,” Wilson said Saturday in Greenwood. “He’s standing right next to me and kind of hears the conversation a little bit. I kind felt like everybody in the store at that point had kind of figured out what’s going on. That was fun. We ended up getting out of there without too much harm and ended up getting back and celebrated with friends and family.”
Wilson hoped to be drafted during Friday’s second or third round. He even had a draft party at the Adelaide Ballroom in downtown Fort Smith complete with a large cake and a live band. When the third round ended without his name being called, the party was canceled as the band’s gig turned into a rehearsal session.
“It was tough. You could see the trend and the way the draft was going based on the needs that teams were taking. You could obviously see they weren’t taking quarterbacks in the first round,” Wilson said. “Then Thursday you see kind of the trend of the way things are going on Thursday — not headed in positive direction you know as far as quarterbacks.
“I think the harder thing would be to see a bunch of (quarterbacks) go, but not seeing any of them come off the board, you’re all sitting in the same boat. I knew the way it was going to do was it was going to be a little bit later than we all anticipated.”
Friday’s disappointment wasn’t new for Wilson. He endured a lot of it during his senior season at Arkansas.
After leading the Razorbacks to an 11-2 record and No. 5 ranking in the final Associated Press poll, Wilson was considered by many NFL insiders to be a first-round draft pick if he elected to leave school early. But he chose to return to Fayetteville for his senior year.
Starting with head coach Bobby Petrino’s April motorcycle crash that launched a scandal and resulted in his firing, Wilson’s final campaign was cursed even before it began. The Razorbacks limped to a 4-8 record despite Wilson completing 249 of 401 passes for 3,387 yards with 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
After starting all 13 games in 2011, Wilson missed the Alabama game after suffering a concussion against Louisiana-Monroe the previous week. He finished his career with dozens of school records, but going out with a losing record left a bad taste in his mouth.
“It was tough. It was a difficult situation. Obviously we were No. 5 in the country. A top-five team my junior season after a great year, went to the Cotton Bowl,” Wilson told Oakland media via teleconference. “And you kind of go through a number of things that test your character, test a lot about you as a football player and I really love this game and I think I’m going to be a better player because of it.”
While he slipped further than expected, however, Wilson might have a landed a prime opportunity to compete for playing time at Oakland.
The Raiders traded Carson Palmer, who started 15 games last season, to the Arizona Cardinals for two draft picks. Matt Leinart was Palmer’s backup. But after splitting snaps with Terrelle Pryor when Palmer was injured in Week 16, Oakland elected not to re-sign Leinart who is now a free agent. In two seasons, Pryor has played in just three games and thrown for just 155 yards on 14-of-30 passing for two touchdowns and one interception.
In April, Oakland traded two draft picks to Seattle for Matt Flynn. The former LSU quarterback lost the battle for the Seahawks’ starting QB job to Russell Wilson prior to the 2012-13 season. In five seasons, Flynn has played in 37 games and completed 37 of 87 passes for 1,083 yards with nine TDs and five interceptions. But 480 yards and six of those touchdowns came in the 2011-12 season as the Green Bay Packers rested Aaron Rodgers in a game against the Detriot Lions.
“Obviously, it’s been a long process, a long three days. You hope to get picked a littler sooner going into it,” Wilson said. “But the right situation, I think, is the most important part. And I definitely think I found that situation with Oakland, being in the situation they’re in quarterback-wise. I think I have a chance to go in there and compete and have a chance at playing sometime soon.”
Wilson will be playing for second-year head coach Dennis Allen. A defensive-minded coach, Allen hired Greg Olson as the offensive coordinator in January. Wilson said the change of offensive coordinators levels the playing field a bit for the quarterbacks.
“You’ve got a little bit of an ability to compete there with the nature of it,” Wilson said. “One, it’s a new offense. This regime that’s in, Dennis Allen, this is his first time to draft a quarterback, so that’s a positive. There’s a lot of positives to it. I’m excited to get in there and go and compete.”
Under Allen, the Raiders finished 4-12 last season. Oakland’s last winning season was in 2002-03, when the Raiders were 11-5 and lost in the Super Bowl to Tampa Bay. Since then, two seasons of 8-8 football have been their best efforts. Despite the lackluster on-field results, the Raiders fans are infamous for their outlandish costumes in a section of the stadium known as “The Black Hole.”
“The Silver & Black is obviously pretty awesome. Those fans are so passionate about what they’re doing and who they are. That’s exciting for me, because you want to be a part of an organization and a fan base that has so much tradition,” Wilson said. “Oakland has won three Super Bowls, with (former owner and coach) Al Davis. The legacy there is so rich. So it’s good to be a part of an organization that has that much tradition.”
Wilson expects to fly out to Oakland early next week. Mini-camps around the league begin in a few weeks, so Wilson must find a place to live and learn his way around the San Francisco Bay Area.
“It’s going to be good to get in Oakland and kind of get settled down,” Wilson said. “Obviously, the first thing I want to do is get the playbook and start diving in there as well. I think just getting into the environment and getting settled will be the biggest thing.”
Also on the agenda will be signing his contract with the Raiders. Last year’s 112th overall pick, offensive tackle Bobby Massie, received a four-year contract worth $2.5 million with a signing bonus of more than $440,000.
Before then, however, Wilson might need to make another trip to Walmart since he didn’t wind up buying anything on Saturday.
“I just left. We had a whole armload of stuff and we just kind of put it down at the cash register,” Wilson said with a laugh. “So somebody’s job (Saturday) afternoon is going to be to put that stuff back.”