Time Wilson, the other 220-pounder in the Houston Oiler backfiled, is not in contention with Earl Campbell for snuff endorsements or $1.2 million contracts, but the University of Maryland product no longer is type-cast as a blocking back.
Not only is he carrying the ball and catching passes, he also shares a Houston status symbol with Campbell and quarterback Dan Pastorini -- broken ribs.
Wilson was offered a flak jacket like Pastorini's for protection but turned it down -- "I couldn't maneuver in it" -- although he hopes the quarterback keeps his. "The way Pastorini is passing," said Wilson, "He's got to wear it again next year."
Wilson ws drafted on the third round in 1977 as a blocker who was the "up" man in Maryland's I formation.
As Larry Brown did with the Redskins after being pigeon-holed as a blocking back at Kansas State, Wilson showed the Oilers he also could run and catch passes. In fact, he recalled on the telephone yesterday from Houston, "I was leading the team last year in rushing and pass receiving before a cyst developed on one of my knees. Fortunately, medicine dissolved it in three weeks and I didn't need surgery."
Rob Carpenter took over in Wilson's absence and emerged as the top rookie rushed in the American Football Conference.
This season, Wilson won back the job and rushed for 431 yards and caught 15 passes for 91 years when not occupied as point man for Campbell.
In two playoff games, he has run for 102 yards, compared with 202 for Campbell, and has caught five passes to Campbell's two, one for a touchdown of 13 yards in Miami.
Wilson said of the eight-degree temperatures predicted for Pittsburgh where the Oilers will play the Steelers Sunday for the AFC championship: "That doesn't bother me at all. Snow, rain... that won't matter. I know we're ready. I can tell from the vibrations by the guys. I sprained a big toe three weeks ago. It nags and nags, but it won't matter. Enither will a sore back.
"Lots of guys are hungry and we're definitely playing for the money (about $32,000 if the Oilers go all the way). We know we are as good as the Steeles (whom the Oilers beat, 24-17, in their first meeting in a Monday night game).
"The last time (when the Oilers lost, 13-3), we didn't have any offensive attack. I broke two ribs the week before. I could block, the I couldn't run. Rich Caster and Mike Renfro were out with injuries. Ken Burrough had a sprained toe. Earl (Campbell) broke a rib after his first four carries in the first quarter."
Wilson is already planning beyond his football-playing days. He returned to the University of Maryland for 18 more credits but still needs three hours and is going to attend the University of Houston in the off season to compete a course in criminology.
"I worked at the D.C. Children's Center and I'm working with Project Push here, a recreation program," Wilson said.
He has an offer of jobs from a home security and an insurance firm in Houston and has made investments in land, an apartment building and a shopping center.