KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Wide receiver Albert Wilson walked off the Chiefs practice field a week ago as just one of the team’s pass catchers working in the shadow of Jeremy Maclin.
Now he takes the field as one the group’s leaders, a veteran counted upon to provide a steady influence following Maclin’s release for one of the youngest receiving corps in the league.
“Like everybody says,we have great talent in our room — young,” Wilson said. “And when you have young talent that you can build on for years and years, that builds a great organization.”
Coach Andy Reid hopes in building that structure now relies in large part on Wilson. If Tyreek Hill fills Maclin’s spot on the field, Wilson and Chris Conley must lead the team off the field.
“Albert and Chris, they’ve spent a lot of time with Jeremy,” Reid said. “They’ll step that up.”
No Chiefs wide receiver holds more experience than Wilson. He signed with the club as a rookie free agent in May 2014, just days before fourth-round draft pick De’Anthony Thomas signed with the team.
The 24-year-old Wilson leads all current receivers in games played, starts, pass targets, receptions and receiving yards. He trails only Hill in touchdown catches.
Wilson admits he feels greater responsibility as a leader with Maclin gone. But he says his goal since remains the same since joining the team in 2014.
“From the day I got here, I’m definitely trying to help everybody get better as a team,” Wilson said. “That’s just my personal objective to make the team better.
“If that’s by being a veteran and a leader inside the room and on the field, that’s exactly what I’m going to do.”
To Wilson, that means drawing from the lessons he learned from Maclin.
“He really showed us how to be a pro in the offseason, what the coaches expect and how to just be a pro on and off the field,” Wilson said.
Yet the fourth-year pro also brings his own background and experience to the role. Wilson played the underdog role his entire life.
Wilson and his two younger sisters spent much of their childhood in foster families. Football became a salvation for a young kid who needed purpose and an escape.
His hard work and determination led to a scholarship at Georgia State. Once the door opened a crack, Wilson kicked it down. He fought his way onto the field in Kansas City, and now he’s the one others turn to for a template for success.
Wilson pulls from that experience for advice to younger teammates, telling them to focus on playing football and having fun.
“You come into different systems, but you definitely just got to stay in the playbook and learn your plays,” Wilson said. “Once you get it down pat, just play your game. The more you have fun out there, the easier the game gets.”
Wilson also continues to learn himself. He says Chiefs new wide receivers coach Greg Lewis continues helping him evolve as a player.
“He’s been teaching me a lot since he’s been here about route running, about how detailed you should be on splits and what not,” Wilson said. “I’m learning a lot and looking forward to being with him for a season.”
Wilson signed a one-year contract for $1.797 million in April to return to Kansas City for a fourth season.
“It’s a blessing just having these guys have their faith in me to come back another year and prove to them that I’m able to play another season with them,” Wilson said.
He hopes to repay that loyalty in his performance. Wilson says he only has one individual goal for the 2017 season.
“Just to do my part, whether that’s special teams or on the offensive side of the ball,” Wilson said. “Help out anywhere I can and get back to the playoffs and win that Super Bowl.”
Matt Derrick is the lead beat writer for ChiefsDigest.com. Use the contact page to reach him or find him on Twitter: @MattDerrick.