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Where Are They Now: Eugene Wilson, CB, Illinois

Despite a successful quick start to his NFL career, Eugene Wilson has been inconsistent and is now left without a job. (Photo on yahoo.com/blogs.chron.com)

Heading into the 2003 season, the Patriots signed veteran safety Rodney Harrison to play along side one of the league’s best in Lawyer Milloy. When Milloy wouldn’t restructure his contract, the Patriots released the Pro-Bowler just five days before the season. Milloy joined AFC east foe Buffalo. The immediate result? A 31-0 thrashing from the Buffalo Bills — yes, those Buffalo Bills.

Milloy left a huge void to fill and at the time, nobody thought it would be converted cornerback, and 2003 second round pick, Eugene Wilson to thrive in the situation. But, Wilson did just that. Statistically speaking, Wilson had one of the better rookie seasons a safety could have. Wilson recorded 61 tackles and four interceptions as the Patriots won Super Bowl XXXVIII. Good enough to land Wilson on ESPN’s All-Rookie team.

Wilson was quickly regarded as one of the NFL’s top young safeties, making jaw-busting hit after another.

Wilson’s success only continued. Over the next two seasons, Wilson accumulated 135 tackles and five interceptions. However, it’s what happened in the following years that led to Wilson’s exit in New England. In 2006, Wilson battled a hamstring injury and only appeared in four games before the Patriots placed him on injured reserve.

The final wheel came off in 2007. With Harrison sidelined for the first four games of the season, the Patriots relied on Wilson and James Sanders to pick up the slack. Wilson failed to do so, performing poorly in Harrison’s absence. When Harrison returned, the Patriots moved the better-performing Sanders to FS; Wilson’s position. The year moved forward with the Patriots going 16-0 in the regular season, losing to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl, while Wilson’s playing time diminished week in and week out.

Wilson became a free agent and signed a one-year contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers heading into the 2008 season. Wilson failed to beat out Will Allen and Tarnard Jackson for a roster spot and was released prior to the season. This proved to be a blessing in disguise for Wilson, as he later signed with the Houston Texas, where he had a few productive seasons.

With Houston, Wilson regained his old form and was a consistent mainstay on the defensive side of the ball for the Texans. But, it wasn’t all roses for “Geno.” Wilson’s 2009 season was cut short due to a foot injury sustained by Wilson, and in 2010 Wilson missed three more games. The Texans released the Illinois alum in February.

Wilson’s career has been rocky, to say the least. At one time he was considered one of the best safeties in the NFL. He won two Super Bowl titles and contributed to an undefeated 2007 team. But, injuries have slowed Wilson and now set to become 31 years old by next season, it’s unlikely he’ll get another opportunity to start in the NFL.

Follow me on Twitter: @M_Marcantonio

About Matthew Marcantonio - @M_Marcantonio

Matthew Marcantonio is the Patriots and college football editor at Sports of Boston. Marcantonio has contributed for two newspapers; the Sentinel & Enterprise (Leominster, Mass) and The Advocate (Baton Rouge, La) and held internships with The Bleacher Report and Sports Illustrated.

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