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Chris Wilson ready for second go-round with CU Buffs

New defensive line coach returns to Boulder, where he coached from 2000-04

CU Athletics
Chris Wilson will coach Colorado’s defensive line.

In the 16 years since Chris Wilson last coached at Colorado, he’s made six stops in his career.

While coaching at Oklahoma, Mississippi State, Georgia, Southern California and with the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals, Wilson developed a wealth of talent, learned a lot and never forgot his five years in Boulder.

Chris Wilson coached CU’s defensive line from 2000-04.

“This is a special place for me and my family,” said Wilson, who coached the Buffs’ defensive line from 2000-04 and returned to that role when hired by new CU head coach Karl Dorrell on Feb. 29. “My son wanted to go to school here, my daughter loves it here. You never really think that you will get a second chance in your career but this has always been a fun place in our family and in my career, to be quite honest. This place kind of launched my career.”

Wilson, 51, had actually been in coaching for seven years before his first stint at CU, but in 2000, then-head coach Gary Barnett gave him his first opportunity at a Power 5 conference school.

The opportunity was unexpected. Wilson had been coaching the defensive line at Illinois State, under head coach Todd Berry, before Berry was hired at Army. In January of 2000, Wilson followed Berry to West Point. Just four months later, Barnett offered Wilson a chance to interview at CU.

Berry said to Wilson, “If you get on that plane, you better get the job.”

Although there was no guarantee of landing the gig in Boulder, Wilson’s wife told him, “Go get the job.”

“Those are the times … when you really have to bet on yourself,” Wilson said. “I wound up getting the job and this place has been amazing for friendships and relationships, the wins.”

At CU, he coached a collection of talent that included Justin Bannan, Tyler Brayton, Brandon Dabdoub, Matt McChesney, Gabe Nyenhuis, Sam Wilder and Abraham Wright, who all played in the NFL.

Courtesy Matt McChesney
Chris Wilson, left, coached several NFL players at Colorado from 2000-04, including Matt McChesney, right.

Wilson was also part of a CU program that won three Big 12 North titles in four years from 2001-04.

In the 15 years since Wilson left Boulder to coach at his alma mater, Oklahoma, CU has had five coaching changes, three bowl appearances and two winning seasons. The Buffs are no longer a national or conference power, but he’s aiming to do his part to get them there again.

“The biggest change you’ve noticed (since 2005) is the facilities, the commitment that the university has put behind this place,” Wilson said. “Being in the National Football League the last few years, I’ve had a chance to go around and see a lot of different places working guys out and things of that nature. This facility is as good as any place in the country, so I’m excited about the opportunity that we have here.

“We’ve just got to do like everybody else and we’ve got to work our butt off to go put a few W’s on the scoreboard.”

Defensive coordinator Tyson Summers is confident in Wilson’s ability to help CU put wins on the board.

“Coach Wilson is a tremendous teacher, a tremendous motivator,” Summers said. “Obviously if you look at his resume as a defensive coordinator in the SEC West, as a Super Bowl winner in the NFL (with the Eagles), the production his defensive linemen have had everywhere he’s been, including here and the University of Oklahoma, is second to none.”

At CU, Wilson will coach a group that includes returning starters Mustafa Johnson, Terrance Lang and Jalen Sami. Every defensive lineman who played last year is back and others have joined the mix.

“When I first got on campus, you kind of take a gauge,” he said. “We’ve got some good athletes; we’ve got some good size. Guys who have some experience, guys with some versatility and that’s what’s really important in this day and age – guys who can play three downs.”

Wilson views himself as a teacher and he’s looking forward to doing more teaching and development than he could do during the last four years in the NFL.

“In college, you’ve got to develop those guys; you’ve got to find out what their traits are and what they do well,” Wilson said. “And then you’ve got to do the best job you can of putting those guys in position (to succeed).”

Twenty years ago, Wilson was a young coach taking a leap of faith to come to Boulder. Now he’s got two more decades of experience under his belt as he’s excited to work with Dorrell.

“When he gave me a call, I was excited,” Wilson said. “I was really excited to come back and work with people you knew that had similar mindsets and I just believe the future is going to be bright here – and bright for a long time.”