BOURBONNAIS, Ill. -- Twenty-one-year-old Marquess Wilson's talent is undeniable.
His Washington State University record 3,207 receiving yards came in only 33 games (27 starts). Wilson fell to the seventh round of the 2013 NFL draft because of questions surrounding his maturity and character after a fallout with WSU head coach Mike Leach that culminated with Wilson leaving the team nine games into his junior year.
The Bears were pleased with Wilson's growth last year as a rookie, but although the club basically anointed the 6-foot-4 wideout as the No. 3 wide receiver in the wake of Earl Bennett's offseason release, general manager Phil Emery was careful not to lavish Wilson with too much praise when the organization reported to camp in late July.
"Marquess Wilson has really good talent," Emery said on July 23. "Now we're going to see if Marquess puts it all together."
Wilson did seem on the verge of putting it all together before fracturing his clavicle during practice on Monday. He routinely made difficult catches over the first eight practices, displaying arguably the best route-running footwork of any of the wide receivers in camp. That's a heavy compliment, considering the Bears have a pair of Pro Bowl wideouts on the roster ahead of Wilson on the depth chart (Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery).
Wilson also appeared to carry himself with a sense of humble confidence off the field. Interviews with the media are tricky. A reporter can never truly know a player based on large group question and answer sessions, but Wilson sure sounded thoughtful and intelligent when discussing his role on the team whenever the media stopped him at the ONU campus.
Now the injury.
When an accomplished veteran NFL player goes down for an extended period of time, he has the benefit of being able to draw from past successes and accomplishments to keep his confidence level high over the course of the recovery process.
Wilson doesn't have that luxury.
That's why it's imperative that veteran leaders such as Marshall continue to work with and encourage Wilson for the next several months. The worst thing for Wilson is to become out-of-sight, out-of-mind; a condition that is known to affect some injured NFL players that are sidelined indefinitely.
On the surface, Marshall seems to have gone out of his way to help mentor Wilson; inviting the young wide receiver to join a large group of Bears' starters who trained in South Florida in the offseason, and even including Wilson and Jeffery in a national NFL Network piece hosted by Hall of Famer Michael Irvin to help boost the younger wideouts' images across the country.
With the proper support system in place, Wilson has a good shot of carving out a solid niche for himself in the offense once the clavicle fracture heals.
Don't rule out Wilson from still making the kind of contributions expected from him this year, albeit in a shortened season.