Safety Adrian Wilson makes a diving interception at the end of Sunday's win over Seattle, the 20th pick of Wilson's career.
Adrian Wilson didn't want to be the topic of conversation Wednesday, but he didn't really have a choice.
The Cards' veteran leads – by far – all NFC strong safeties in Pro Bowl voting. His athletic interception against Seattle Sunday was the 20th of his career, setting him up to become the 10th player in NFL history to get 20 interceptions and 20 sacks if he just gets to the quarterback one more time.
Yet Wilson initially tried to steer clear of any interviews.
"I've seen what can happen when you are in the spotlight, or in the spotlight too much," Wilson said. "I want to lead from the back and do what I do."
What Wilson does is galvanize the defense and create an anxious feeling for opponents. There have been bumpy moments – Wilson had a difficult day covering Bears tight end Greg Olsen a couple weeks ago – but he's been mostly steady as he pushes for his third Pro Bowl appearance.
Reaching the 20-20 plateau would boost that candidacy, and probably say more than any words he could offer.
"A lot of things have changed around here since I got here in '06," said fellow safety Matt Ware, whose locker is next to Wilson. "It's more of a team thing, and guys aren't really worried about individual stuff. It's about getting back to that championship.
"I am sure (accolades) are on his mind, but if he performs like he always has, it's going to come, so what's the point of talking about it?"
Wilson said reaching the 20-20 mark is significant to him in a historical sense, getting a chance to be mentioned with players like Ray Lewis, Brian Dawkins, LeRoy Butler, Rhonde Barber and Rodney Harrison, among others.
If anything, it's the chance at history that woos Wilson. As he mentioned when he signed his contract extension this summer, the thought of playing for just one team in his NFL career – and having his name included in the Cardinals' Ring of Honor – carries significant weight.
"I have never been retired on any level, whether it is high school or college or anything," Wilson said. "I have seen friends get that done, and just to be mentioned with (Cardinals Hall of Fame safety) Larry (Wilson) and have that kind of aura about you I think that says a lot about what you have done for one franchise. For me, that's big. I don't know how other players feel, but for me, that's big."
Self-promotion doesn't necessarily help. Helping in the locker room does. Coach Ken Whisenhunt said he and Wilson once had discussions about becoming more of a leader, something Wilson has embraced.
"If you're going to have a program that's successful, especially one that revolves around the team, you have to have your best players do that," Whisenhunt said.
Ware's thought of a changing locker room has tangible roots with Wilson too. Lockers have been moved over the years, and Wilson said his station –in the middle of the defensive backs – all but forced him to take a bigger role with teammates.
But the losing locker room Wilson was a part of – mostly as a listener at the time – also drove him to want to win as soon as possible, to escape that culture. There he learned that only doing solves losing, not talking.
Wilson was asked what it meant to him to be just one sack away from the 20-20 list. "That I am one sack away," came Wilson's smart-aleck retort.
"It's not as relevant to me right now as team victories," Wilson said. "It'll be a good feeling, but at the same time, it's about winning games. That's what we are here for."
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