Sometimes the road for a coach in the NFL is a rough one; however, none could be rougher than the path former Pittsburgh Steelers and now Minnesota Vikings running backs coach Kirby Wilson has had to endure. When someone says they’ve been there and done that, Wilson surely can echo that sentiment.
Wilson has coached at the collegiate level, the junior college level and at the professional level. All of his tenures have been as a position coach in one facet or another — whether it was as a wide receivers coach at USC in 2001, a defensive backs coach at the University of Wyoming from 1993-1994 or winning Super Bowls with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Steelers as a running backs coach.
Wilson also had NFL stops with the New England Patriots, Washington Redskins and Arizona Cardinals. You can now add the Vikings to the long list of coaching pit stops for Wilson. The energetic coach that is beloved by his players has never truly gotten the break necessary to elevate himself from the position coach level to a coordinator or assistant coach.
It seemed that he was poised for a promotion in 2012 when former Steelers offensive coordinator Bruce Arians was relieved of his duties with the team, but on January 6 in the early morning hours, Wilson was severely burned in a house fire. The near-death experience had him at UPMC Hospital in Pittsburgh where he was placed in a medically-induced coma.
At that point, his career wasn’t in question, but his life certainly was. With his health at risk and the question of his ability to continue coaching in jeopardy, the Steelers hired Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. Wilson ended up making a full recovery and came back to coach the running backs the following season. However, it seemed as if fate had take an opportunity away from Wilson in terms of getting the promotion he desired and deserved.
Steelers fans knew that Wilson would eventually get his chance as a coordinator, and an interview with the Baltimore Ravens looked like it might be a fit, but the team passed him over. Wilson’s search continues. Seeing the opportunity for advancement within the Steelers’ organization slip away, Wilson decided to leave the Steel City and head to the great north for the chance to coach one of the greatest running backs the NFL has seen in decades, Adrian Peterson.
As any football fan would realize when reading Wilson’s story, it is hard not to root for a football “lifer” like him — especially one that has been through such tragedy, only to keep plugging away in a career that can be so difficult and cruel. Wilson will get his opportunity, and I think I speak for everyone when I say his success is well deserved.