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Stanley Wilson the son is ready to rise

Former Stanford defensive back hopes to restore father's name in NFL circles

02:50 AM CDT on Wednesday, April 6, 2005

By RICK GOSSELIN / Dallas Morning News

Stanley Wilson is proud of his name. Proud to be the son of Stanley Wilson, former NFL player. Proud to be the son of Stanley Wilson, convicted felon.

Stanley Wilson the father besmirched his good name in the NFL by going AWOL on the Cincinnati Bengals on the eve of the biggest game of his life — the 1989 Super Bowl.

Wilson, the Bengals' starting fullback, went on a cocaine binge that night and didn't play in the game the next day against the San Francisco 49ers. He never played in the NFL again.

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Ten years later, Wilson again besmirched his name with a conviction for stealing property from a Beverly Hills, Calif., home. He needed money for drugs. It was his third strike, and the courts sent him away for 22 years.

Now his son hopes to embark on an NFL career of his own, intent on restoring the good name of Stanley Wilson in NFL circles. Stanley Wilson the son doesn't feel he needs to restore his father's good name in the family circle.

"I'm happy to represent my dad," the son said. "It's a blessing and a tribute to him that I'm here. A lot of people who might have a past like I do could have fallen by the wayside. The fact that I'm here today shows he's a great dad. I wouldn't change that."

Stanley Wilson had a career year in 1988, helping the Bengals reach the Super Bowl – a game he never played in.

Young Stanley was raised by his grandparents, Henry and Beverly Wilson. His father was in and out of trouble over the years, but the two remained close. To this day. They talk about football. They talk drugs. But they don't talk about that Super Bowl.

"We don't talk specifically about that night, but rather his whole addiction problem," the younger Stanley said. "We talk about drugs so that I stay away from them."

Stanley the father was a star running back at Oklahoma but a lowly ninth-round draft pick of the Bengals in 1983. He persevered, winning a spot on the roster in his rookie season and increasing his playing time as the years wore on.

Wilson rushed for 398 yards on 112 carries in 1988, both career highs, and scored two touchdowns against Seattle in an AFC semifinal playoff game.

Young Stanley was to be in attendance at the Super Bowl to see his father play. At 5, Stanley was too young to comprehend the game-day commotion.

"I remember being in the hotel," the son said. "My grandparents told me my father had gotten in trouble and they asked me if I still wanted to go to the game. I didn"t understand what was going on, and I told them I did.

Stanley Wilson

"We went, and it was awkward. It was surreal. I remember like it was played yesterday. I remember being there. But I didn't know what happened until about a year later and he wasn't there anymore. It is what it is."

In 1999, the father went off to a prison in suburban Los Angeles. A year later, the son went off to Stanford on a football scholarship.

The son also ran track and was one of the fastest men on campus, running a leg on the 400-meter relay team that posted the second-fastest time in school history. After running a 4.36 40-yard dash at the combine last month, Wilson will be one of the fastest players in the NFL as well.

Wilson started three years at Stanford at cornerback, earning honorable mention All-Pacific 10 as a senior when he made 54 tackles. He has size (5-11, 185 pounds) to go with his speed and pencils in as a first-day selection in next month's draft.

As his own NFL career nears, the Stanford corner does not feel he carries any extra burden with his name.

"I love my dad," Wilson said. "I feel I'm blessed that he's around. A lot of people don't have their fathers. It's not a burden. It's a blessing in disguise."

Rick Gosselin's draft projection: Rounds 3-4

E-mail rgosselin@dallasnews.com

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