Steve Wilks' road to becoming head coach of the Arizona Cardinals had humble beginnings.
“It means a lot,” said Wilks, the 41st head coach in the history of the Cardinals franchise. “When you look at the path that I have taken to get here, Johnson C. Smtih University. Small school in Charlotte, North Carolina, historically black college, limited resources, not a lot. I had to line the field, wash the clothes, ran study hall. I did it all and I created a mindset back then, just be big time where you are.”
Wilks has been in the big time. He made trips to the Super Bowl with the Bears and Panthers. Wilks also had coaching stops with the Chargers, University of Washington, Notre Dame and was the head coach at Savannah State and Johnson C. Smith. He has a bold vision and shares it with his players, fans and even his bosses at the introductory news conference.
“You guys made the right decision,” said Wilks, turning and looking at Cardinals president Michael Bidwill and GM Steve Keim from the podium. The Cardinals interviewed nine assistants and said their decision on Wilks came together Friday night into Saturday morning.
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“There was a point where we felt like OK, this is our guy,” said Bidwill. “We really felt like it was a great fit and there’s that moment when you just know.”
Wilks made a bold first impression on Keim during a summer vacation, in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. He reportedly walked up to him on the beach and introduced himself. Wilks confirmed the exchange happened but said he already knew Keim.
“My family and I vacation there every year,” said Wilks, about the meeting in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. “I saw Steve there. I just went up and introduced myself again. We had a quick conversation.”
“He didn’t buy me a beer,” joked Keim.
The two Steves are now tasked with two major offseason questions, a quarterback and whether Larry Fitzgerald signs up for another season.
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“I spoke with Larry,” said Wilks. “We had a very in-depth conversation. We did not express if he was or wasn’t coming back. We would definitely love to have him back. He is a major part of our success, past, present and future.”
“The better quarterback we add, the better coach he will be,” said Keim. “We’re going to be aggressive in the process and there’s going to be a number of different options, whether it’s free agency, a trade option, the draft or all three.”
Free agency begins on March 14. The NFL Draft is scheduled for April 26-28 in Dallas.
Bruce Arians, who retired from head coaching the Cardinals on Jan. 1, released a statement saying he had different ideas of who should have replaced him.
“We built a strong Cardinals legacy over the last five years. I wish Steve Wilks the best of luck. I’m disappointed that (Cardinals defensive coordinator James) Bettch or (Atlanta Falcons special-teams coach) Keith (Armstrong) didn’t get the Cardinals position. They are both ready. I truly believe they will be an asset to any football organization. Trust. Loyalty. Respect," the statement said.
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