The seven players had widely divergent degrees of success. Some played in every game. Others didn’t step on the field all season.
The Giants’ 2012 draft class is a tight-knit group that spends time together and supports each other. Near the end of the season, we gave each of them an opportunity to talk about their first NFL season.
First Round, 32nd Overall Selection.
Wilson was the primary kickoff returner all season. He set a franchise record with 1,533 kickoff return yards and his 57 returns tied the mark set by
On December 9, Wilson had what was arguably the finest performance by a rookie in team history, one that earned him the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week award, the first Giants Kickoff returner to be so honored since David Meggett in 1994.
Wilson returned four kickoffs for 227 yards, including a 97-yard touchdown, and added 110 rushing yards and two scores to set a franchise record with 337 total yards. He also set several team and league records and achieved milestones that hadn’t been reached in decades.
Wilson averaged 56.8 yards per return, the highest total ever by a Giant with at least three returns in a game. The previous record of 51.8 yards was set by Joe Scott on four returns vs. the Rams on Nov. 14, 1948. In that game 64 years ago, Scott was the last Giants player before to score rushing and kickoff return touchdowns in the same game. And Wilson’s 327 all-purpose yards broke the former team mark of 303, set by Hixon at New Orleans on Oct. 18, 209.
Wilson scored the Giants’ first touchdown on his 97-yard kickoff return in the first quarter. It was the Giants’ first kickoff return touchdown since Hixon’s 74-yard runback against New England on Dec. 29, 2007.
In addition to his contributions as a returner, Wilson was third on the team with 358 rushing yards and four touchdowns and he caught four passes for 34 yards, including a 15-yard touchdown in the season finale vs. Philadelphia. He was the first Giants player to score touchdowns rushing, receiving and on a kickoff return in the same season since Joe Scott in 1948.
“When I started off, I lost trust from the coaches,” Wilson said. “So the whole time I was trying to rebuild the trust in the coaches and give them the confidence to give me the opportunity. So week after week and game after game I kept preparing like I was going to be a part of the game, so when my opportunity came I would be ready for it.”
He was certainly ready when Ahmad Bradshaw injured his knee in the victory over the Saints. Wilson admits he felt pressure coming in as a first-round draft choice.
“The team picks you first and then everybody is watching to wait and see how good of a choice that was,” he said. “So the fans anticipate and they give you a lot of attention. Even the smallest mistakes get blown up and when you do well it’s the same thing. So you just got to come in and play football at the end of the day. I think all of the draft picks have a certain amount of pressure on them and it’s all about going out there and just contributing to the team.”
The Giants are excited about what Wilson will be able to contribute in the future.
“David flashed some things and he looked like the guy we thought he could be,” general manager Jerry Reese said. “You fumble the ball early on in the season and that kind of set him back. Coaches get a little bit nervous when young players…you put them in and they turn the ball over early in the game. He proved himself and got back in there and we think he’s going to be a terrific player for us. He’s a dynamic, really kind of a world class athlete. We think he has a bright future for us.”
Wilson’s transition to the NFL was eased by the presence of cornerback
“You can share what you’re going through and get advice from somebody that’s a peer,” Wilson said. “You got a lot of teammates you can get advice from, but having a rookie that you know already and being able to talk to him or share things with him helps a lot.”
Wilson grew up in Virginia and navigating the roads of the metropolitan area has been a challenge for him.
“Driving in the city is harder than it is in New Jersey,” Wilson said. “But you get used to it. When I first got here, riding in the car with someone else was scarier than driving myself. People are more aggressive here, but I adjusted quickly. I think it’s fun. People blow their horns and I can join in, even though I don’t know what they’re blowing their horns for.”
And what advice would he offer the Giants’ 2013 first-round pick?
“I’d just tell him make sure you don’t fumble if he’s an offensive player,” Wilson said. “That would be my advice.”