Behind the Facemask:
Defensive lineman Jimmy Wilkerson enters his first season with the New Orleans Saints and eighth in the NFL. This will be his third-straight year in the NFC South as he was a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the previous two seasons. Prior to joining Tampa Bay, the former University of Oklahoma star played his first five years in the league for the Kansas City Chiefs. Wilkerson is coming off his best season as a pro after starting the first 15 games of 2009 and collecting 66 total tackles, six sacks and three forced fumbles.
Q: How has your time been in New Orleans since signing with the Saints in April?
JW: “So far everything has been great. The players have really been friendly and have helped me out a lot. They give me as much knowledge as they can, especially the defensive linemen. This team is all about getting back to the Super Bowl. Sometimes, you deal with guys that don’t want anything to do with you because they think you are just there to take their spot. These guys aren’t like that. We all have the same goal.”
Q: You were very familiar with the Saints after playing for their division rival the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but what specifically attracted you to New Orleans?
JW: “The coaches really attracted me to come here. Starting with coach Gregg (Williams), the defensive line coach Bill Johnson and when I met Coach (Sean) Payton he put the icing on the cake. I was very excited to come here after meeting them because I didn’t know they were interested in me at first. When my agent told me I would be flying to New Orleans for a visit I was ecstatic. I want to help this team get back to the Super Bowl.”
Q: What current player were you closest to on the Saints prior to joining the team?
Q: As a former All-Big 12 first-team selection, how did you feel this past summer when there was expansion talk in college football and the possibility of the Big 12 disbanding?
JW: “I was disappointed because when I was playing in the Big 12 it was the top conference in college football. I was happy to hear that Oklahoma and Texas are going to stay in the Big 12. I am disappointed Nebraska left but it is what it is.”
Q: What has been your favorite place to eat so far in New Orleans?
JW: "I haven’t gone to eat at too many places but right now Emeril’s is No. 1. Their salmon they cook is top notch.”
Q: What would you say your biggest moment has been so far in the NFL?
JW: “My first year at Tampa, I was coming off doing very little in Kansas City so before I even signed with Tampa, I told their head coach Jon Gruden ‘if you don’t like me then just release me right away.’ They ended up liking me and I shined in that defense. My first year there I had five sacks and my second year I had six sacks. I backed up what I promised them and I was glad I could prove to them what I could do.”
Q: When your playing days are over, what would you like to do for a living?
JW: “I would like to go into coaching. Start at a low level like high school or Division III. I want to get my feet wet first and start to build my way up.”
Q: What is your favorite leisure activity when you are away from football?JW: “Right now, it is using my iPad. I have had it for a few months and when I am away from football it is always by my side. I take it everywhere I go. When I go back to my apartment I use it to play games, Google things, look up stats and read my bible. My wife got me a keyboard so I don’t have to just tap on the screen.”