David Wilson walked into Tom Coughlin's office Monday, knowing his NFL career was over because of chronic neck problems. Yet the running back's reaction wasn't what you might have expected. His expression wasn't much different from what it was the night the Giants made him a first-round draft pick in 2012.
"He came in my office with a big smile on his face," Coughlin said. "Nothing that was said got him to a state of melancholy or anything. He wasn't going to go there. He's always been one of those effervescent men. There's a lot to be said about his inner strength right now, and what he learned as a youngster from his parents comes shining through."
Yes, perspective has come quickly and easily for Wilson. Only hours after team doctors advised him never to play again, his relentlessly positive personality shined through. His smile once lit up the locker room, and his explosive kickoff returns and slashing runs offered hope that he would be the answer at two key positions. But now that he knows he can't play without risking potentially catastrophic injury, he insists there is no regret.
"Growing up, ever since I was 8 years old, I wanted to play in the NFL," Wilson said. "And I can't say that I didn't live my dream, because I did. I played for the New York Giants. I scored touchdowns. I caught touchdowns. I returned kicks for touchdowns and I set records. So I got to do some of the things I dreamed of doing all my life."
Wilson showed big-time maturity right there. He knows what life really is all about. Where others might have been crushed, he already seems to have come to grips with the situation. Even if there are depressing moments ahead, it's heartening to know he has his priorities in order. Especially with so much of his life ahead of him.
Perhaps Wilson, 23, realizes how lucky he is, how it could have ended so much worse. He suffered what was termed "a burner" in his neck area in practice last Tuesday when he ran into offensive lineman Eric Heilman after catching a shovel pass. Wilson experienced numbness, and if the moment of impact had been more severe, he might never have walked again.
It's fair to wonder if he was cleared too soon for contact, or should have been cleared at all. But there are no guarantees with neck issues. Peyton Manning had no assurances, and he had four neck procedures before coming back in 2012.
The Giants have a track record of being conservative with injuries and are considered one of the NFL's most careful teams with medical decisions.
No second-guessing from Wilson, though.
"I'm thankful that I can literally walk away from the game and that I am healthy and capable of doing the same things I have done all my life, except play football," he said. "I always try to find the positive in everything."
Most times, players get to walk -- or limp -- away. But sometimes they don't. Former Patriots receiver Darryl Stingley, former Lions lineman Mike Utley and former Jets defensive lineman Dennis Byrd suffered paralyzing injuries in games. Byrd learned to walk again but still feels the pain of that awful collision with teammate Scott Mersereau in 1992. Former Rutgers linebacker Eric LeGrand may never walk again, although he'll never give up trying.
Thank goodness Wilson didn't become another victim.
Coughlin said Wilson told him: " 'I want no pity. I'm not going to be down about this. I'll stay positive. I'm a positive person by nature, and it's going to remain that way.' I thought it was a wonderful thing to say and a lesson for all of us."
A good lesson, indeed:
Appreciate what you have, because it's not promised beyond today.