What is the true price of fumbling? A professionals first hand thoughts

As I read an article in the pressdemocrat.com from SANTA CLARA by GRANT COHN— Jeff Wilson Jr. did everything right until he didn’t.

There were many amazing nuggets that stuck out to me that young athletes need to hear, process, absorb and implement into their athletic lives.

The article set the stage well...."With 2:50 remaining in the first quarter of the 49ers’ 26-23 overtime win over the Seattle Seahawks last Sunday, Wilson — the 49ers’ undrafted rookie running back — took a handoff from quarterback Nick Mullens, found a hole, broke a tackle and ran for 14 yards.  So far, so good."

How many athletes have been in this situation?  They think, I have this and all is going to end in triumph! Arms raised, team mates excited, crowd cheering...

"As Wilson ran up-field, he approached Seahawks strong safety Brad McDougald and had a sudden choice to make: run around McDougald, or run through him. Wilson picked Option B, because he’s a collision runner. That’s his nature."

Good, old-fashioned football guy that loves, no, invites contact.  The guy that we as spectators enjoy to watch.  Coaches love to coach physical players and players hate to engage.  Until this....

"When Wilson lowered his shoulder, McDougald ducked his head, hit the football with his helmet and caused a fumble, Wilson’s third of the past three games. The Seahawks recovered the ball."

Let the wisdom and retrospect begin to resinate in the minds and hearts of the young, future athletes in this world.  HOW DOES IT FEEL TO FUMBLE??   This summary is an amazingly insightful look into the implications of the act of a fumble.

It’s like a dagger in the heart,” Wilson said, describing the feeling he gets when he puts the ball on the ground. “It hurts. As a running back, you know in this league there are so many guys who are right by each other as far as talent. So, (fumbling) like that can set you aside and be the difference between you and the next guy. When I (fumble), I am hurting myself and my teammates, and farther down the line in my career, that can be a downfall to me.”

"Since the 49ers promoted Wilson to the active roster from the practice squad on Nov. 24, he mostly has played well. He has appeared in the past four games, rushed 52 times and averaged a solid 4.4 yards per carry. He seems talented enough to succeed in the NFL. Unless, of course, he keeps fumbling."


How many additional carries do you think he got in the game after the fumble?   ONLY 3...but then redemption and opportunity connected on his behalf.

His Coach (Bobby Turner gives him a chance in OT) He was allotted an opportunity to to set up the game-winning field goal by Robbie Gould.

The 49ers trusted Wilson to close out the win even though he fumbled earlier. And he came through.

The wisdom from Jeff Wilson Jr. continues...“That meant the world to me,” Wilson said. “It gave me what I need to keep going forward and not worry about the negative. For the coaches to put me back in, they don’t know much that helped my life from a personal standpoint. They don’t know what they did for me. I’m glad they did, though.”

Does this always happen?? Does a coach always give you another shot?  Should they??  What we see is what we allow or what we coach!  That's the mindset of the most coaches and therefore if an athlete has a tendency of putting the ball on the ground, they don't have a future because as a coach, WE DON'T ALLOW THAT OR COACH THAT!

Here's an even deeper discovery that is brought to light in the article....Wilson, 23, played college football at North Texas, where in 2017 he rushed for 1,215 yards and 16 touchdowns and averaged a gaudy 6.5 yards per carry. But he also fumbled once every 33 carries during his college career. That’s one big reason no team drafted him despite his impressive production.

So far in the NFL, Wilson has fumbled once every 17 carries.

“You’ve got to hold on to it,” was what his Coach said to him. 

Ironically, Wilson provides even more perspective that College athletes need to hear regarding the margin for error and the slim openings that result in the NFL around ball security. 

“(The fumbling issue) did show up in college and it only gets worse in the NFL because everyone tackles (well). Almost every time there’s a tackle, people are going for the ball. And if there’s any space in there, it’s coming out.”

Wilson knows he must adjust his technique while holding the football to protect it better and stay in the league.

This is where we as coaches realize that sometimes a persons' habits are already ingrained and therefore unchangeable.  Athletes like Wilson, go back to the fundamentals they were told. 

“We have our seven pressure points on the ball,” Wilson said. “The main one is the seventh, and that’s a mindset. Once I change my mindset, I feel like (the fumbles) will be something that can be easily fixed.”  Ironically even though he BELIEVES it, he must take specific steps to change his mindset and his habits.  REPETITION and CONDITIONING are strong indicators of FUTURE CHOICES.  It is extremely difficult to overcome a personal habit without interjecting a new way of teaching or learning. 

Do his HEAD COACHES words below give you confidence that he's a patient man when it comes to helping him overcome the 1:17 rate currently?   Will being a great person overcome another fumble in an NFL season? 

Shanahan hopes Wilson Jr. is right about the mindset.“We’ll see,” Shanahan said. “I do hope, and I do have confidence that he can (stop fumbling) because we see him every day. We like the person. He works at it. The game doesn’t seem too big for him. He’s very well-liked around here, not just because he’s a friendly guy, but because people respect how he works and what he does. Jeff’s not going to make excuses. He knows exactly what he did (against the Seahawks) and how big that (fumble) could have cost us. He’s going to get another opportunity. I hope he lives up to it.”

The fact remains that the price of a fumble can be your future earning potential, your employment, your profession, your career.  The mindset is a powerful tool, especially when it drives a daily working attitude that results in creating habits that results in successful carries like carrying the ball HIGHandTIGHT for ever!

The article in its entirety can be read via this link 

1 comment

  • Awesome article. Fans, as well as youth football players don’t realize how tough of an issue this is..

    Trevor L. Thornton

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