Illini's Wilson relaxed heading into draft

Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson figures to be a second- or third-round pick. AP Photo/Michael Conroy

Michael Whitehead has done enough worrying about his son Martez Wilson over the years.

Local draft prospects

From Wilson’s childhood growing up in Chicago to attending Simeon Academy to going away to school to play football at Illinois to suffering a herniated disk in his neck in 2009, Whitehead feels as if he’s been in a constant state of concern over his son.

“You worry about your kids,” Whitehead said. “Anything can happen when they’re at school or away from home. When he got injured, everybody was thinking, ‘He’s got to go under the knife.’ As a parent, I was, of course, worried. Afterward, I was worried.”

Come Thursday, Whitehead plans to stop worrying.

Whether Wilson, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound outside linebacker, is taken in the first round of the NFL draft on Thursday or has to wait a day to be selected, Whitehead is going to sit back and enjoy his son’s success.

“I’m not worried about the draft,” Whitehead said. “I know he’s going to play football somewhere. That’s all that matters. If it’s not the first round, it’ll be the second. If not the second, it’ll be the third. I’m very proud of my son. It’s like a dream come true.”

Taking a cue from his father, Wilson also felt relaxed heading into the three-day draft. Even though he may not be picked in the first round on Thursday, he and his family are hosting a gathering of family members and friends at Simeon’s alumni hall to view the draft.

“I’ve watched the draft in previous years sitting down with my uncle and pops,” Wilson said. “I’ll be in the same chair, but now it’s my name that is going to be called. It’s just an experience to go through with my family.

“I’m confident I’ll go in the first round. Anyone would be disappointed if they aren’t taken in the first round, but I’ll still be happy.”

ESPN’s NFL draft analysts rank Wilson as the 59th best overall prospect and the fourth-best outside linebacker. Mel Kiper has Wilson going in the second round, No. 34 overall by the Buffalo Bills in his latest projections.

Wilson doesn’t have a preference where he goes. He just wants to reward that team.

“My goal is to be the most complete football player in the game,” said Wilson, who left Illinois a season early. “I want to learn from the veterans around me. I want to learn as much about the game as possible. My athletic ability is there. That will stay as long as I continue to work, and I’ll do that. I think I can be a very successful player.”

Whitehead believes it. He nicknamed Wilson “Wolverine” because of the way he trains and plays. He had no doubt that would continue to carry over to the NFL.

“He’s like a wolverine,” Whitehead said. “That’s my son. It’s just that simple. He’s a strong man. He’s fast.

“He loves football, and nothing’s going to stop him.”