LAKE FOREST – At 21 years old, Marquess Wilson is the youngest wide receiver on the Bears' roster for a second year, but he assures he’s nowhere close to being a rookie.
In fact, as he ran with the first-team offense in Tuesday's offseason training activity, he said his turning point remained framed in his mind. It’s a scene from last season when Pro Bowl wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery asked him to run routes with them.
Wilson, then a rookie out of Washington State, did as any seventh-rounder would when faced with an invitation to play with two receivers with 2,716 yards between them. He accepted. Then he ran. And he ran some more. Exhausted, he unstrapped his gloves and looked up to find the Bears' starting wide receivers lining up again.
“They just kept going, ‘No, we’re going to get a few more,’” Wilson said Tuesday at Halas Hall after practice. “I strapped back up and just took on the work.”
Right there, Wilson said he saw the line separating elite NFL wide receivers from those who hang their hats on their college statistics. The blur of his first NFL season started to make more sense, like those times he walked off the field or out of the weight room after hours and had to say goodbye to Marshall and Jeffery, as they couldn’t stop themselves.
“Just work, and don’t complain about anything,” Wilson said. “The time you put in is what’s going to come out in the end. Say you’re on the field and you leave 45 minutes after everyone else. The coaches are going to see that.”
Wilson hopes to work into a slot role with the Bears but recognizes he still has a long way to go. He’s working in a depth chart with Marshall, Jeffery and tight end Martellus Bennett, each of whom totaled at least 750 receiving yards last season. Wilson, meanwhile, had 13 yards on two catches.
But what the 21-year old has on his teammates is time and room to grow, and he’s starting to feel the results. Wilson says he has added 10 pounds of upper-leg strength and claims he now weighs 207 pounds. The team roster still lists him at 184.
On one play with the first-team offense, Wilson exploded out of his stance and made a hard cut on an out pattern. He looked up to find Jay Cutler’s pass in his face and a defender draped on his back. Wilson’s timing was perfect as the ball fell into a sweet spot between his 6-foot-4 frame and the sideline.
Wilson scooped the ball to his body and dropped two feet in bounds to the sound of a few cheers. Then he sprinted back to the huddle for another route.