Wyoming Cowboys head coach Craig Bohl had a hunch.
It was early in his second season at Wyoming when Bohl watched his then-freshman cornerback Logan Wilson fly across the field on the scout team anticipating plays like a seasoned veteran. Wilson would hit a gap at just the right time or perfectly blanket a tight end in coverage. It was then Bohl knew he had to make a move, even if Wilson didn't fully understand it at the time.
"I remember bringing him in my office his freshman year and he was about 190 pounds. I said 'Logan we're looking to move you to SAM linebacker,'" said Bohl. "He looked at me, paused and said 'what is SAM?'"
The decision turned out to be one of the best in Bohl's coaching career as Wilson developed into one of the top linebackers in the nation. Wilson was the only finalist for the 2019 Butkus Award who wasn't from a Power Five school.
A position change normally would be challenging for any freshman football player in college. Yet it wasn't the most difficult part for Wilson because back home in Casper he was dealing with an issue larger than football, his parents' divorce.
Wilson would do his best to communicate daily with his family back in Casper trying to balance family, school and football. The way Wilson's mind worked he had no choice. That's the way he operates, a humble kid from nearby Casper bringing in a strong work ethic, persistence and intelligence to do whatever he could to help his family and the team.
"That was really hard for me to go through because I am a family-oriented person and my younger sister, Peyton, had to go through that process too and I had just left for college," Wilson said. "That was a really tough time. Having parents go through a divorce is never a good thing and I wouldn't wish that on anyone."
It's that one-step at a time mentality that helped Wilson not only help his family get through the divorce, but channel his effort and energy back to the game he loves.
Wilson grew up enjoying loving football and the small-town setting of Casper, a city of about 55,000 residents. Casper, located on the eastern side of the state, is commonly known as destination for travelers who enjoy outdoor recreation. What's interesting is there is a rich history of success stories from that part of the state, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who like Wilson was the captain of Natrona County High School football team.
It was the small-town ethos of hard work, selflessness and commitment that drove Wilson to put in the additional time in the weight room, film sessions and on the practice field. Each time out on the field, Wilson did his best to heed the advice given to him by Bohl and his staff. He never took it as a personal attack but a step-by-step program in his growth as a football player.
"I got to Wyoming at 190 pounds and I'm 240 pounds now," said Wilson. "That doesn't just happen overnight. It was four years of constant progression. It was a large body of work to add that weight and it is a long process. If there's one thing that coach Bohl preaches constantly is development. At Wyoming you are getting the physical reps right away and getting used to the physicality of it and being able to develop at whatever position you may be."
Fast forward years later where Wilson's effort and energy paved the way one an incredibly successful college career.
View some of the top images of the Bengals third round pick, linebacker Logan Wilson from Wyoming.
Among active players in 2019, Wilson ranked No. 1 among active FBS players in the nation in career defensive touchdowns with four and career solo tackles with 421. He also ranked fourth among linebackers in career interception returns for touchdowns and sixth in interceptions. As a senior Wilson earned second-team All-American honors from USA Today and was a first-team All-Mountain West choice after his senior season.
Wilson also served as a team captain for three consecutive seasons and was a starter on four consecutive bowl-eligible teams in 2016, '17, '18 and '19.
"It gives you an indication of how our team saw him," Bohl said. "He was a vocal leader. Beyond being a really good player, he embodied being a really good teammate. I don't care what level, what school you are at, being elected a captain three times speaks volumes about what kind of leader you are."
Mike Potts, the Bengals' director of college scouting, immediately knew Wilson was the type of player the Bengals needed to revamp their defense. A mid-season visit to Laramie where the University of Wyoming is located confirmed Potts' instincts that despite not playing at a Power Five school, Wilson was as good as they get when one combined his production and off-the-field attributes.
"It's especially helpful as a scout to get an up-close feel for players who come from outside the 'Power Five' conferences and maybe aren't seeing the best of the best competition weekly," Potts said. "There wasn't many negatives about him when I evaluated his tape. His production and instincts really jump out when you study him, as well as his size, athleticism, and effectiveness as a tackler."
A perfect example of Wilson's attributes came on Senior Night when Wyoming defeated their rival, the Colorado State Rams, for the fourth consecutive time. With 3:15 left in the fourth quarter and Wyoming holding on to a 17-7 lead, Wilson quickly darted back 20 yards in coverage and intercepted a pass on Rams' final possession of the game to secure the win.
Potts said that in the scouting world Wilson is an example of a player that would be referred to as a "clean prospect." Scouts love the fact that Wilson showcases high character, intelligence, and durability to go along with being an extremely productive player on the field.
The Bengals, of course, didn't select Wilson in round three because of his niceness. But when talent is crossed with humility and self-awareness, it's usually a recipe for long-term success in the NFL.