Chiefs rookie wide receiver Albert Wilson began his college career at Georgia State, an urban school that at the time didn’t own a helmet, a football, a locker room or a practice field.
Four years later, in its first season as a full-fledged Division I Football Bowl Subdivision member, Georgia State went 0-12.
But in between the start-up of the Georgia State program in Atlanta and the completion of Wilson’s career, he became one of the most prolific playmakers in college football history.
And it was Wilson’s eye-popping big plays, not to mention his 4.43 speed, that earned him an invitation to the NFL scouting combine and a contract with the Chiefs after he went undrafted.
Wilson, a compactly built, 5-9, 200-pound dynamo, recorded 6,235 all-purpose yards in his career, which would have ranked in the top 30 in NCAA history had Georgia State been a full-fledged NCAA member for that period.
He had eight scoring plays of 70 yards or longer — five receiving, two kickoff returns and one rushing, and 21 plays of 50-plus yards. The average length of his 23 career touchdown receptions was 44.6 yards.
“I like Albert Wilson,” said Chiefs head coach Andy Reid after Monday’s conclusion of the Chiefs’ rookie minicamp. “I like his athletic ability. He’s very strong, even though he’s not the tallest guy. And he runs fast.”
Granted, the level of weekly competition Wilson faced as Georgia State went from the Football Championship Subdivision to provisional NCAA status was not against college football powers, though he did get a chance to perform in non-conference games against Tennessee, West Virginia and Alabama.
“It’s always good when you see it on tape, and they transfer it to here,” Reid said. “You can see why he functioned so well at the college level.”
Wilson’s 97-yard touchdown return in front of 101,621 at Alabama in 2010 — in which he raced right past Crimson Tide coach Nick Saban — put him on NFL radar screens, even as Georgia State lost 63-7.
“It got a lot of attention my way,” Wilson said. “It was an outstanding job by my front 10, and we ran with it, and it gave me an opportunity to make a play.”
Still, Wilson went undrafted this year, even as a teammate, offensive tackle Ulrick John, was taken in the seventh round by Indianapolis.
“It makes me work harder,” Wilson said. “I don’t feel like I didn’t do enough to get drafted. That’s the way the draft went, and teams picked who they needed the most at the time. I’m blessed with the opportunity Kansas City gave me, and I’m here to work hard.”
Wilson said he heard from nearly every team after the draft, and liked what he heard from Reid the best.
“He told me he felt I had the best opportunity in Kansas City,” said Wilson. “I put my trust in him.”
Wilson’s best shot at making the Chiefs’ roster would appear to be as a kick returner. The club lost Quintin Demps, the AFC’s kickoff return leader, and its all-time leading punt returner, Dexter McCluster, to free agency.
“I can do well in the slot as a receiver, also,” said Wilson, who outleaped tryout cornerback Quinton Byrd for a touchdown catch in a scoring-zone session on Monday. “But I know my role, and I feel like kickoff return and punt return will help me out.”
Wilson played quarterback and cornerback in high school in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and said that gives him a bit of an edge as a receiver.
“It makes me familiar with what the defense is doing,” said Wilson, whose college position coach was former Chiefs wide receiver Keary Colbert. “I’ve learned more football in these last two weeks than I have playing receiver, four in college and going into this year, and if I can continue building my game as a receiver, I’ll do well.”
Wilson, as a 5-9 quarterback wasn’t heavily recruited out of high school, but he made an immediate impact at Georgia State, starting with that kickoff return against Alabama.
He finished his career as the school’s leading receiver with 175 receptions for 3,190 yards (18.2-yard average), and 23 touchdowns. Wilson also was the program’s leader in kickoff returns with 95 for 2,338 yards (24.6-yard average) and two touchdowns, and in punt returns with 41 for 376 yards (9.2 yard average).
Wilson also had the longest reception (93 yards), longest run (80), longest kickoff return (100) and longest punt return (62) in school history.
“When you rate players who are in a start-up situation like this, what you look at is the unselfishness of the player and his willingness to throw his hat into the ring every single time he was asked,” former NFL star Bill Curry, the initial Georgia State coach told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution last fall. “Return punts, Albert. Return kickoffs, Albert. Catch the ball, Albert. Run with the ball, Albert. Block the guy, Albert. He never wavered. He just went out there and got after it every day.”
Perhaps Wilson’s most memorable performance came in his junior season against Old Dominion when he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and caught a 93-yard touchdown pass on consecutive touches.
“It was hard to get it going,” Wilson said of a program that started 6-5 but went 3-8, 1-10 and 0-12 as it graduated to the Sun Belt Conference. “But it was something I can say I helped build. It was an opportunity to take pride in something I built that I will always have with me.”
Albert Wilson’s big plays
Chiefs rookie wide receiver recorded eight touchdowns of 70 yards or more during his college career at Georgia State.
100-yard kickoff Return vs. Old Dominion, 2012
97-yard kickoff return vs. Alabama, 2010
93-yard reception vs. Old Dominion, 2012
84-yard reception vs. Texas-San Antonio, 2012
80-yard run vs. Arkansas State, 2013
78-yard reception vs. South Alabama, 2011
75-yard reception vs. Jacksonville State, 2013
70-yard reception vs. Arkansas State, 2013