Two days before facing the Indianapolis Colts in Super Bowl XLI in February 2007, the Bears conducted their final practice of the week at the University of Miami.
On one play, reserve linebacker Rod Wilson dropped back into pass coverage, turning his hips and running downfield—just as he had done hundreds of times before. Only this time he pulled up in pain after tweaking his hamstring—an injury that unfortunately prevented him from playing in the Super Bowl.
Fast forward 13 years later and Wilson is back in south Florida, once again in pursuit of the same elusive Super Bowl victory that eluded him with the Bears—except this time he’s there as assistant special-teams coach of the Kansas City Chiefs.
After watching from the sideline as the Bears lost Super Bowl XLI to the Colts, Wilson never dreamed that he’d ever have another opportunity to win an NFL championship ring, especially in the same stadium.
“To be honest with you, no,” Wilson said this week during a telephone interview from Miami. “This is a tough thing to achieve, the ultimate game on Sunday. But I’m blessed and I’m happy to be back. And it’s crazy that we’re back in Miami.”
Wilson is thrilled to have a second chance to win a Super Bowl, but he’s not seeking redemption for the hamstring injury that prevented him from playing in the big game with the Bears. In fact, he sounds slightly embarrassed that some of the Chiefs players he coaches found out what transpired 13 years ago.
“I don’t talk about it,” Wilson said. “But every now and then it comes up, especially now. A lot of people didn’t know about it. But it kind of got out there a little bit, in the locker room, so now I’ve got to kind of deal with it. Players ask me about it. I try to explain it to them. They want to know what happened.”
Even after suffering the injury in the Bears’ Friday practice, Wilson still hoped to play in Super Bowl XLI. But he was informed the day of the game that he would not be active. As you’d expect, the news crushed Wilson, who at the time was a valuable four-phase special-teams contributor.
“I came back into the locker room and sat at my locker and I was very emotional,” Wilson said. “I remember [Bears center] Olin Kreutz coming over and telling me to keep my head up and saying, ‘I’m sorry, but we’re going to need you on the sideline cheering us on.’
“It was really big of Olin to do that. He was the first guy who said something to me. I kind of picked myself up after that. I just tried to be supportive in the locker room and on the sideline.”
Wilson was selected by the Bears in the seventh round of the 2005 draft out of South Carolina. After missing his entire rookie year with a knee injury he sustained in a preseason game, he played in the final 13 regular-season contests in 2006 as well as playoff wins over the Seahawks and Saints.
Wilson appeared in 15 games with the Bears in 2007, but he broke his arm in a 2008 preseason contest and was released with an injury settlement.
After playing with the Buccaneers in 2009, Wilson returned to the Bears in 2010 following an injury to linebacker Hunter Hillenmeyer. The Bears won the NFC North title and advanced to the NFC Championship Game, where they lost to the Packers.
Wilson started his coaching career at the collegiate level, spending four seasons as inside linebackers coach at Charleston Southern University from 2013-16.
He then joined the Chiefs in 2017 as the assistant to special-teams coordinator Dave Toub, who coached Wilson while serving in the same role with the Bears under Lovie Smith from 2004-12.
“It’s been great,” Wilson said of his three seasons in Kansas City. “Having played for coach Toub and now being able to work for him, I already had an understanding of what he was looking for and what he wanted. It made the transition a whole lot smoother.”
Wilson also loves working for Andy Reid, one of the NFL’s most highly-respected head coaches. Reid has led the Eagles and the Chiefs to 15 playoff appearances in 21 seasons but is still seeking his first Super Bowl victory. It’s something that Wilson hopes to help Reid accomplish Sunday when they face the San Francisco 49ers.
“I want to win for coach Reid,” Wilson said. “Just watching how he works, how he keeps the players motivated and how the players love him, working for him has been a true blessing. He’s consistent. You’re going to get the same coach Reid every day. He’s going to give 100 percent in everything he does, he’s going to battle for you and he’s legitimately the same guy every day.”