NFL-bound LB Payton Wilson out to erase injury concerns

By Thomson Reuters Feb 29, 2024 | 12:07 PM

INDIANAPOLIS — Labels are nothing new to North Carolina State linebacker Payton Wilson, a projected first-round pick determined to shed one particular tag before the 2024 NFL Draft.

Injury prone.

“Throughout my career, early in my career, I did have a lot of injuries,” Wilson said at the NFL Scouting Combine. “But these last two years, I’ve stayed really healthy — put on some extra weight. I’ve really honed in on nutrition and maintenance programs to keep me healthy. I think what I have going on is gonna keep me playing a long time in the NFL and I’m not scared of injuries. At the end of the day, they’re inevitable and I’m going to play every single play like it’s my last. Whatever happens, happens.”

Wilson works out with the linebacker group Thursday and has a little extra bounce in his step after a shorter hospital physical with NFL doctors than expected.

Wilson spent his first season at NC State in 2018 recovering from a high school knee injury and played only two games in 2021 because of a shoulder injury.

“What I have going right now for myself, whether it’s like I said with nutrition and my maintenance programs, I feel like I have sustained a good formula to play for a long time in this league,” he said.

At 6-foot-4 and 238 pounds, Wilson’s size and range in coverage are coveted traits in the NFL. Wilson studies San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Fred Warner closely, and there are elements of their skill sets that match.

“As a linebacker in today’s league, you’re asked to do a lot in the pass game and just being able to be athletic and understanding route concepts and football IQ is so important,” Wilson said.

He allowed a passer rating of 47.2 as the next closest defender last season and has 10.5 sacks and four interceptions since he made changes to stay fully healthy before the start of the 2022 season.

“I’m just excited to get to continue to prove to everyone that I’m one of the most athletic linebackers to ever come through this combine and I’m looking to impress a lot of people,” Wilson said.

A stellar workout, coupled with expected strong interviews from the football junkie, could help remove the durability doubts for some NFL teams this week.

But there’s another label Wilson knows is going to stick, especially in his hometown of Hillsborough, N.C.

“I tell people all the time, in Raleigh, I’m Payton Wilson, but when we go back to Hillsborough, I’m Bryse Wilson’s little brother,” Payton Wilson said.

Bryse Wilson is a pitcher for the Milwaukee Brewers who went 6-0 out of the bullpen last season. For two years at Orange High School, Bryse and Payton Wilson were starting linebackers on defense and had games where they combined for 30-plus tackles. Bryse said Payton is the more “violent” and “fast” of the brothers, but Payton says big brother is still stronger.

“I mean he’s one of those country strong dudes who could walk into a weight room right now and probably out-lift all of us,” Payton Wilson said. “Just getting whooped by him growing up and trying to chase his greatness — honestly just try to be better than him — it was just something I always chased. It might not ever happen because of how great of an athlete he is and what he’s done for our hometown. But just continuing to learn from him and the beatings I

took from him when we were little instilled a lot of toughness into me.”

–Field Level Media