From barber’s chair to starting in NFL

The story of how City College of San Francisco’s most recent NFL star arrived on campus probably won’t go down in the annals of high-end recruiting persistence.

Gibril Wilson, the fourth-year starting safety for the New York Giants, was sitting at his localbarbershop when fate, not the constant communication of any of the Rams’ coaches, paved the way for his arrival to the CCSF football team.

“I was getting my hair cut when one of the guys who always hung out there asked me where I was going to play ball next year,” said Wilson, a San Jose native. “At the time, I was having trouble with my SATs and I didn’t really know what I was doing. The guy who asked me went to CCSF and he told me to check it out. I had never heard of the program before, but when I met the coaching staff there, I knew that’s where I wanted to go and play.”

Wilson played for the Rams from 2000-01, never losing a game during his two-year stay as the Rams went 24-0. CCSF coach George Rush recalls those teams as two of the best he has ever coached, with Wilson being a centerpiece of their success.

“I was amazed with Gibril from the first time I met him,” Rush said. “He was a tremendous leader on the football field and an even better person off it. He had such a humble and respectful personality and he was willing to do anything to help the team out.”

In an example of his willingness to change, both for his team and his own sake, Wilson switched positions while at CCSF, moving from his natural spot of cornerback to safety. While still possessing the cover skills of a lockdown corner, Wilson also learned the nuances of freely patrolling the secondary, a combination that helped him move on to star for Southeastern Conference power Tennessee after leaving CCSF in 2001.

“I was always a real aggressive corner,” Wilson said. “And the coaches saw that and felt I could have a better chance at the next level if I could use my corner skills at safety. In Division I and in the league now, there aren’t any more of the big, slow safeties who just lay out hits. You almost have to be like a third corner out there and that’s the kind of player coach Rush helped turn me into.”

Wilson played twoyears at Tennessee before he was drafted in the fifth round of the 2004 NFL draft by the Giants. He has been the starting safety since his rookie year and last week he was one of the few bright spots in his team’s dismal defensive showing, as he intercepted a pass and picked up eight tackles in New York’s 45-35 loss to the Dallas Cowboys.

Wilson’s journey to the NFL is far from the lone success story of the CCSF program. Ollie Matson and O.J. Simpson both started out their Hall of Fame careers suiting up for the Rams and recent NFL players who hailed from CCSF include St. Louis Rams cornerback Lenny Walls, a San Francisco native, and linebacker Desmond Bishop, who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers this spring.

At CCSF, it has become almost routine how often the program churns out great football players, but Rush never takes for granted the talent level he has had the pleasure of coaching.

“You know, we have a great player leave here and you think ‘we’ll never have another player like that again,’” Rush said. “And then, somehow, another guy comes through here who is just as great. It’s all pretty amazing.”

Jucos in the Hall

Sixteen people who have junior college ties have made the Pro Football Hall of Fame for their NFL exploits:

Player: School

Frank Gifford: Bakersfield College

Dave Wilcox: Boise Junior College

Joe Gibbs: Cerritos College

Ron Yary: Cerritos College

Ollie Matson: City College of San Francisco

O.J. Simpson: City College of San Francisco

John Madden: College of San Mateo

Bill Walsh: College of San Mateo

Joe Perry: Compton College

Pete Rozelle: Compton College

Hugh McElhenny: Compton College

Gino Marchetti: Modesto Junior College

Roger Staubach: New Mexico Military Institute

Dick “Night Train” Lane: Scottsbluff Junior College

Willie Wood: West Hills College

Warren Moon: West Los Angeles College

– Source: Pro Football Hall of Fame and Junior College Athletic Bureau Web site

Proving ground

Junior colleges such as CCSF and CSM offer a path to better opportunities for football players.

» MONDAY: The history behind CCSF and CSM

» TUESDAY: Junior college provides second chances

» WEDNESDAY: Plethora of teams means state stands alone

» THURSDAY: How do the big boys use jucos?

» TODAY: Making it all the way to the NFL

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