Christian Wilkins’ personality fills any room.
He’s isn’t the life of a party. He is the party.
But if his head ever gets too big for the rest of his body, Marion Hobby knows exactly how to deflate it.
He will just bring up the Clemson-Pittsburgh game from a few years back.
Hobby was at the time the Tigers’ defensive coordinator and defensive ends coach.
Wilkins was a promising, but still developing, young D-lineman.
“This is the [story] he hates the most,” Hobby, now Wilkins’ position coach with the Dolphins, said this week. “This is probably when he said I was mean to him. We played the University of Pittsburgh and they kept running the shovel pass. I think they ran it 12 times his way.
“I think he stopped the last one,” Hobby added. “He got to the sideline and I told him ‘I think I’m just going to take you out of the game from now on.’ I told him I’ll make him go back to nose guard or something. That’s the only one he reminds me of the most. I forgot all about it, but that’s the one that got to him the most, I believe.”
Hobby is right. Wilkins cringed when told that story Friday.
He was a BMOC at Clemson, and the center of attention after his first day of practice as a pro.
That’s part of the deal as the 13th pick in the draft.
But Hobby is determined to keep the energetic, effervescent and ebullient young defender on Planet Earth. And if he needs to “talk about old stuff,” as Wilkins put it Friday, so be it.
“Hobby will definitely do a good job of keeping me humble,” Wilkins said. “And that’s why he makes you better. You’re never good enough. He’s always hard on you at all times, but that’s what’s going to get you to where you need to be. But he’ll keep you humbled, keep you grounded.”
It’s a fun contrast between Wilkins, who is all personality, and Dolphins coach Brian Flores, who would rather let the football do the talking.
Wilkins is a showman. Flores, a Bill Belichick disciple, is admittedly “straight-edged.”
But Flores insisted Friday that he has no plans of tamping down Wilkins’ huge personality.
“I want each player to be who they are,” Flores said. “ ... I think he has a great personality. I think he’s shown leadership in the past. Is it there? Yes. Do we expect him to be captain of this team this year? No. We’re not going to put that on him right now. Right now he needs to learn the playbook, earn the respect of his teammates, go out here and set foot on the field first and foremost, and we’ll take it from there.”
Said Hobby: “He’s going to have fun. He’s going to have fun at practice. He’s going to have fun in games. As the media, you’re going to enjoy Christian. The only time I really see him have a bad day is when we didn’t win. Other than that, his energy level, he’s consistent. That’s his personality. That’s the way he’s been since Day 1.”
But can he play?
All of that charisma will wear thin if Wilkins doesn’t become a force on the Dolphins’ defensive line.
Hobby is convinced that won’t be an issue.
During the Dolphins’ pre-draft meetings, Chris Grier asked for Hobby’s unvarnished opinion on Wilkins, a player the Dolphins have targeted for some time.
“[I was] just being honest about him, who he was and what kind of person he was,” Hobby said. “I read in the big meeting just like everybody else did. Then they come down with ‘Do you think this guy can help us?’ ‘Yes.’ Do you put your name on him as a person?’ ‘Yes.’ It was all yes’s. That’s what put it over.”
Added Wilkins: “[I’m] just trying to be great. This is what I worked for all my life. Not that I’m here, take it and run with it. There’s never going to be a bad moment for me out here, as long as I can compete.”