‘No one else can say they’ve got a whole state behind him’
LARAMIE -- "I don't know if I'd believe you."
That was Logan Wilson's response when asked if two years ago, sitting in his father's living room in Casper, hearing his name called as the top pick of the third round by the Cincinnati Bengals, if he thought he'd be preparing to play in Super Bowl LVI this week in Los Angeles.
"I mean, truthfully, the turnaround we've had has been unbelievable," he continued.
While most may be stunned about the 180 that once-downtrodden franchise has made, not nearly as many are shocked by what Wilson has done on the field in the early stages of his NFL career.
Certainly no one who watched him suit up for four seasons in Laramie.
Wilson racked up a team-high 100 tackles and five interceptions for the AFC North Champions this season, including picking off Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill late in the fourth quarter of the Divisional Round and setting up kicker Evan McPherson for a game-winning 52-yard field goal as time expired.
The Casper native also snagged an interception off the right arm of Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger (twice) and Justin Fields.
So, it should come to the surprise of no one Wilson also leads the Bengals in tackles this postseason, registering 30 total in wins over the Raiders, Titans and Chiefs. The Bengals middle linebacker has also picked up 1.5 tackles for loss, including a huge fourth-down stuff of 6-foot-3, 247-pound Tennessee running back, Derrick Henry.
While this month has served a whirlwind, Wilson said he is taking everything in stride as his team prepares to take on the Los Angeles Rams Sunday inside SoFi Stadium. He joked that his favorite part of this chaotic week so far has been the 80-degree weather and being able to wear shorts and apply sunscreen.
That doesn't happen in February in southwest Ohio.
In all seriousness, though, Wilson knows he is in a unique situation.
"There are dudes that play in this league 10 to 20 years and they never get this opportunity or make it this far," he said Friday afternoon from his hotel room in LA. "We're going to play in the biggest football game in the world so, I mean, it's surreal to just to be here. I'm very thankful for it all."
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Wilson also knows with a win he could join a very select fraternity of former Wyoming players to hoist the Lombardi Trophy, joining names like Aaron Kyle, Derrick Martin, Jay Novacek, Jim Kiick and others.
Even more impressive, Wilson could become just the second Cowboy ever to hail from Wyoming, play at the state's lone university and win a Super Bowl, joining Lingle's Jerry Hill, who won it all with the Baltimore Colts back in 1970.
None of that is lost on Wilson, who said Sunday he will sport thigh pads featuring Steamboat on one leg and the state flag on the other.
"No one else can say they've got a whole state behind him right now," Wilson said. "I love it. I cherish it, truthfully. It's awesome really just to see the city I grew up in -- and the state in general, really -- kind of just embrace that I'm from there. You know, I cherish it and it's really humbling and really cool."
Wilson said he has seen all of your messages, videos and well wishes.
He loves the fact his old high school, Natrona County, played the Bengals' fight song "Who Dey" and held an "orange and black" Friday. There's even a new chili named after Wilson, he said, along with a large poster of him in the Casper Walmart.
They don't call him "The Governor" for nothing.
Wilson said he has also heard from former UW teammates like Andrew Wingard, Marcus Epps and Josh Allen, among others. He will see another Sunday across the field on the opposing sideline, Tyler Hall.
After picking off Roethlisberger for the second time in Week 3, Cincinnati cornerback Mike Hilton was caught on mic asking Wilson what his secret was to hauling in interceptions. He joked that Wilson must be going to bed at 9:30 every night and living right.
Turns out, that's the truth.
Will Wilson have any trouble sleeping Saturday night?
"I'll be able to sleep just fine," he said with a laugh. "I try to not even think about it. Honestly, it's the only way you can get a good night's rest is not even thinking about it. Just rely on your preparation that you put in the last two weeks and, you know, everything will take care of itself."
He'd be lying though if he said he hasn't day dreamed about what it will be like to run out of the tunnel and potentially claim the first Super Bowl title in franchise history.
"Oh, yeah, the city is going crazy," he said. "Now, we just have to go out and get that Lombardi."