When Florida State star Marvin Wilson turned down the NFL draft last year for another season with the Seminoles, the decision was understandable. A great senior season might have turned the potential first-round pick into a top-10 selection.
It didn’t happen. A knee injury and disappointing season dented his draft stock, making him more likely to go on Day 3 than Day 1.
The call might have cost him millions. But he still doesn’t regret it.
“It taught me to overcome certain things,” Wilson said.
There was a lot to overcome.
Wilson entered Tallahassee in the last gasps of FSU’s recent glory days. He signed with the ‘Noles as the nation’s top defensive tackle and a crown jewel of their fourth consecutive top-six recruiting class. FSU started his freshman season ranked third in the country.
Then the program started to crumble, going through a pair of coaching changes and three consecutive losing seasons.
“I’ve been on a top team,” Wilson said, “and a team that hasn’t been so successful.”
Wilson and the Seminoles hit rock bottom last year. FSU’s 3-6 record was the program’s worst since 1975, the year before Bobby Bowden’s arrival.
He threatened to boycott workouts over misleading comments coach Mike Norvell made during the nationwide racial unrest caused by the death of George Floyd. Wilson doesn’t regret it but wishes he had talked with Norvell personally instead of posting about it publicly on social media. The controversy led Wilson to create a foundation, Marvin’s Movement, that teaches financial literacy to children in north Florida.
On the field, a torn meniscus kept Wilson from being as disruptive as he was during his all-conference 2019 and shut him down in mid-November.
“It definitely was one of the hardest things ever,” Wilson said. “... When it first happened, they wanted me to get surgery, but I didn’t. I was fighting it. I fought as long as I could until we all came to the conclusion that it was best for me at the time (to shut down).”
As rough as it all was, Wilson considers the experience an opportunity for growth —a chance to prove that he can conduct himself professionally, no matter how bleak the situation.
“I feel like that’s what I have against other guys in the draft,” Wilson said. “It doesn’t matter what situation I’m put in. I already know how to thrive.”
The same thing is true for Wilson’s specific role on a defense.
As FSU churned through coaches, Wilson’s responsibilities evolved. He has lined up in various gaps and alignments along the line in at least three different base defenses (3-4, 4-3 and a 4-2-5).
His extra year gave him one more scheme to study, under his third different coordinator (Adam Fuller). When he Zooms with NFL teams, he probably has at least a baseline knowledge of their system and how he might fit into it.
“I have so much experience at different positions,” Wilson said. “That’s why I feel like the sky’s the limit for me, because I make plays at almost every position.”
He did not, however, make enough of them last season.
Wilson had only 17 tackles (two for a loss) in his six games as a senior. It was a discouraging output for a big-time talent whom evaluators have been buzzing about for years.
“Marvin Wilson, I think, was a little bit a victim of some of the expectations,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “You come with expectations really high, you’re left a little bit disappointed.”
Jeremiah views Wilson as a fourth-round pick because of a down 2020 season and a lack of dynamic athleticism. Wilson’s pedestrian numbers in the broad jump (eight feet, 11 inches) and vertical leap (25½ inches) at Monday’s pro day didn’t help.
Wherever and whenever Wilson gets drafted, he thinks he’ll be in a better place because of the ups and downs he experienced at FSU.
“We had difficult times here as a whole more than anything,” Wilson said. “I learned how to continue to push for better days. Those better days, they came.
“They’re here now.”