Cowboys’ Football Journey: J.J. Wilcox
28 Oct 2014
IRVING, Texas -- J.J. Wilcox wasn’t the best player at Cairo (Ga.) High School. Or at Georgia Southern.

He didn’t even play safety until his senior year in college, but here Wilcox is starting at safety for the Dallas Cowboys, winners of six consecutive games.

Wilcox brings a physical attitude to the Cowboys’ defense and a work-ethic that accompanies a young player who has been overlooked much of his career.

Safety J.J. Wilcox emerged from a standout senior season at Georgia Southern to become a Cowboys' draft pick in 2013.

Here’s what Wilcox has to say about his football journey:

What was the name of your first team: The Cairo (Ga.) Bulldogs.

What position did you play: I was a quarterback. I couldn’t throw, but I could hand off and bootleg. Even in high school I couldn't throw.

What position did you play in high school: I played quarterback my junior year on the JV. I played safety and receiver my senior year. I didn’t start until my senior year. I was overlooked. I was a late bloomer. I was always a guy who just worked hard and played hard.

What’s your favorite high school memory: I won a state championship my senior year (28-14 over Flowery Branch). I had a touchdown and six or seven tackles. We knew we were going to win it in the offseason the way we trained, the way we worked, and the camaraderie we had. We grew up together from Pop Warner all through high school. Our parents knew each other, they had played with each other, and we just had that small town community thing going.

Why Georgia Southern: I had four offers: Georgia Southern, Sanford, Western Kentucky and Valdosta State. When I visited it was unbelievable. It’s in Statesboro, which is a football town, near Savannah. A couple of guys from my high school team played for Georgia Southern, so I decided to go there.

Did you have immediate success at Georgia Southern: I played receiver as a freshman. Then my coach got fired and the new coach brought in the option, so I moved to running back my sophomore and junior years. In July before my senior year right before training camp coach asked me to play safety. I had always liked (former Washington Redskins safety) Sean Taylor and I like a challenge, so i was good with the move, andy coach told me he’d move me back to running back if I didn’t look good.

How did you play at safety: I had a big year, especially for one year. A lot of scouts came to look at my defensive tackle Brent Russell, he was a two-time All-American, and they saw me doing kick returns, playing a little offense and safety.

When did you start thinking about the NFL: I had always dreamed about it, but I never really thought about it until midway through my senior year. Then scouts started calling me and agents started calling me, and I thought I might have a shot.

How did you do at the Senior Bowl: I earned a lot of money that week. A lot of the big-name guys didn’t come and that gave me a chance to stand out. I made a pick on the first day and it gave me confidence that I could play with those guys

What was draft day like: My agent told me third or fourth round. I thought I was going when Honey Badger went to Arizona in the third round, and I was mad at my agent. He called me and I started yelling at him. It was emotional. I went in my room closed the door and everyone else was in the living room wondering what was wrong with me. My mom was crying and she told me to stop stressing her out. She was like don’t be mad or upset. Wherever you go just be glad you’re blessed and fortunate enough to get a chance. I went back in the living room and about five picks later Jerry (Jones) called me and I just burst into tears because all my hard work had paid off.

What was your “Welcome to the NFL” moment: When we played the Denver Broncos last year, I was starstruck. I saw Peyton Manning out there and I was like, Wow. he’s looking at me and checking out of plays based on what I’m doing.

How would you describe your NFL journey: I’ve been very blessed. God has favored me, I know that. I had a praying mom and she prayed me into the NFL. I know this because I wasn’t the most talented player. A lot of guys get into the NFL because of their talent, but it wasn’t really my talent. I always worked hard, but I was a late-bloomer, I went to a small school and the odds were really against me.

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