Hall of Famer Greene tips his cap to Wilson, Redskins' top pick

July 18, 1991|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,Sun Staff Correspondent

LATROBE, Pa. -- Joe Greene, the Hall of Fame defensive tackle who now is an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers, visited Michigan State this year to scout Bobby Wilson.

Greene put Wilson through a workout, talked with him and measured the youngster's hands, finding them slightly bigger than his.

Then Greene gave Wilson a memento -- his hat.

For Wilson, who grew up watching Joe Greene throw the jersey to the kid in the soft-drink commercial, it was a special moment.

"He kind of hid it under his jersey. He wanted it, but he didn't want anybody to notice it," Greene said.

"I didn't want to take his hat and put it on my head. I just took it, told him thanks and made a little joke about it," Wilson said.

Wilson knew a lot about Greene, because the Michigan State coach, George Perles, was an assistant coach with Pittsburgh when the Steelers won four Super Bowls in the 1970s.

Perles even lined Wilson up in the position Greene had made famous -- the tackle in the Stunt 4-3. He played at an angle over the center the way Greene did.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that Wilson will become another Greene. A player such as Greene comes along only once in a generation.

But the Redskins, who made Wilson their first first-round draft choice since they selected Darrell Green in 1983, think they've found a future standout in Wilson.

Wilson's first scrimmage yesterday was against Greene's team -- the Steelers.

"I didn't talk to him, but as we came on the field, he looked at me and I looked at him and we waved," Wilson said.

Wilson did nothing to change the Redskins' opinion that he was the best lineman in the draft, better than Russell Maryland, the player the Dallas Cowboys made the No. 1 pick overall.

In the one-on-one drills, Wilson lined up 18 times against various Pittsburgh linemen. Except for jumping offside once, Wilson got good grades from the Redskins and won two-thirds of his battles.

"He looked fine," said Redskins defensive line coach LaVern Torgeson. "He's a little anxious right now, but he did some real good things. He learned pretty fast, so he'll come on in a hurry."

Redskins coach Joe Gibbs said: "I think he's been good ever since he got in camp. He's very quick, and we've just got to see how far he goes."

The Redskins like Wilson's aggressiveness.

Wilson missed just one practice Monday before signing a three-year deal that included a $1 million signing bonus and base salaries of $330,000, $360,000 and $390,000. With roster bonuses, Wilson's package will average more than $700,000.

There's a chance Wilson will battle veterans Tim Johnson and Eric Williams for a starting spot this year.

Greene said he isn't surprised Wilson is doing so well.

"He's very strong," Greene said. "He's a guy who can break the pocket and get after the ball carrier."

Greene was impressed when he saw the size of Wilson's hands.

"I'm sure that's an asset for him, delivering a blow, grabbing, the whole deal. George [Perles] did a good job of teaching him to use his hands. He hits you and delivers a good blow."

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