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Steve Wilks
Head Coach
Age:
48
College:
Appalachian State
Hometown:
Charlotte, N.C.
Experience:
13

Biography

The 48-year old Wilks has spent the past six seasons (2012-17) with the Carolina Panthers, including last year as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Charlotte, NC native is a 23-year coaching veteran and has spent the last 12 years as an assistant in the NFL. Wilks coached for 11 years at the collegiate level, including one season (1999) as the head coach at Savannah State.

The 48-year old Wilks has spent the past six seasons (2012-17) with the Carolina Panthers, including last year as the team’s defensive coordinator. The Charlotte, NC native is a 23-year coaching veteran and has spent the last 12 years as an assistant in the NFL. Wilks coached for 11 years at the collegiate level, including one season (1999) as the head coach at Savannah State.

Some of the highlights from Wilks tenure with Carolina follow below:

  • Wilks was promoted to Panthers defensive coordinator in 2017 after Sean McDermott departed to become the head coach of the Buffalo Bills. Wilks had previously served as the team’s secondary coach for five seasons (2012-16) and added the title of assistant head coach for 2015-16.
  • The Panthers finished in the top-10 in total defense in five of Wilks’ six seasons with the team. Last year in Wilks’ first as defensive coordinator the Panthers went from 21st overall in 2016 to 7th in ’17.
  • In Wilks’ first year as defensive coordinator in 2017, the Panthers finished seventh in the NFL in total defense (317.1 ypg), third in sacks (50), and third in run defense (88.1 ypg).
  • Carolina was the only team in the NFL last season not to allow an individual 100-yard rusher in any game. The Panthers have gone 20 consecutive games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, the longest active streak in the NFL. LB Luke Kuechly was selected to his fifth consecutive Pro Bowl and was named first-team All-Pro in 2017.
  • The Panthers 50 sacks last season were the third-most in the NFL in 2017 and the fourth-most in franchise history. They were one of three teams (Jaguars, Rams) in the NFL to have multiple players with double-digit sacks (Julius Peppers-11, Mario Addison-11).
  • In 2015, the Panthers played in Super Bowl 50 and led the NFL in interceptions (24), total takeaways (39) and turnover differential (+20). Carolina limited opposing quarterbacks to an NFL-low 73.5 passer rating and ranked sixth in the NFL in total defense (322.9 ypg).
  • Carolina is second in the NFL since 2015 with 51 interceptions.
  • In 2015, safety Kurt Coleman tied for third in the NFL with seven interceptions, the second most in team history, and returned one for a touchdown. Cornerback Josh Norman earned first-team All-Pro honors and was selected to the Pro Bowl after recording 15 passes defensed and four interceptions, including two returned for touchdowns.
  • In 2014, Wilks secondary helped the Panthers rank 10th in the NFL in total defense. During the 2013 season, Wilks directed a unit that helped the Panthers finish second in the NFL in total defense and sixth in passing defense. Defensive backs were responsible for 16 interceptions, including a team-record four returned for touchdowns.
  • In his first season with the Panthers in 2012, Carolina’s pass defense under Wilks improved from 24th in 2011 to 13th for an overall ranking of 10th in total defense.

Wilks joined the Panthers in 2012 after spending three seasons (2009-11) working with the Chargers secondary. He added the title of assistant head coach in his third season with the Chargers in 2011. Prior to Wilks' arrival, San Diego ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass but finished 11th in 2009, first in 2010 and 13th in 2011.

In 2010, Wilks helped the Chargers defense lead the NFL in total defense and pass defense. San Diego limited opponents to a 76.2 passer rating, fourth lowest in the league, and surrendered 18 touchdown passes, the fifth fewest in the NFL that season. Safety Eric Weddle was twice named All-Pro (2010-11) and was selected to the Pro Bowl in 2010.

Wilks first job in the NFL was as defensive backs coach with the Chicago Bears for three seasons (2006-08). In that time, the Bears secondary accounted for 42 of the team’s 62 interceptions, including 16 in 2006 when Chicago led the NFL with 44 takeaways and advanced to Super Bowl XLI. Chicago’s defensive backs forced 20 fumbles during Wilks tenure, the most in the NFL during that three-year span.

He coached for 11 seasons at the collegiate level, working as a defensive backs coach, defensive coordinator and head coach. Wilks began his coaching career as defensive coordinator at Johnson C. Smith in Charlotte for two seasons (1995-96) and then as defensive coordinator at Savannah State for two seasons (1997-98) before being elevated to head coach in 1999. He guided the Tigers to a 5-6 record as head coach after being named Division II defensive coordinator of the year in 1998 as Savannah State led the nation in total defense. 

Wilks had one-year stints as defensive backs coach at Illinois State (2000) and his alma mater, Appalachian State (2001), before working as the co-defensive coordinator at East Tennessee State in 2002. He then went to Bowling Green as defensive backs coach in 2003 before working at Notre Dame (2004) and the University of Washington (2005) in that same role.

Wilks played defensive back at Appalachian State from 1987-91 and finished his career with 103 tackles, four interceptions and four blocked kicks. He attended training camp with the Seattle Seahawks in 1992 and played defensive back and wide receiver for the Charlotte Rage of the Arena Football League in 1993.

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