Former Nole keeps NFL dream alive in UFL

October 29, 2009 

ST. PETERSBURG

Football was done with Julius Wilson. His time with Tampa Bay ended when the Buccaneers cut him three days before the final preseason game. He returned home to Bradenton and began looking for a job.

“Any job,” Wilson said. “Anybody that would hire me.”

Wilson called his agent.

“Anybody call?”

No one called.

“I thought that was it,” said Wilson, a 2003 graduate of Southeast.

Then the phone rang. It was former Buc Ike Hilliard, now a volunteer assistant coach with the Florida Tuskers of the newly formed United Football League.

“Wanna play football?” Hilliard asked.

He didn’t have to ask twice.

“We’re in the business of winning football games,” Hilliard said. “We want to get guys who can give us a chance to win. We expect Julius to help us.”

That’s how Wilson ended up at Tropicana Field on Wednesday.

The Tuskers, 3-0 in the fledgling league, practiced on the site of last year’s World Series for Friday night’s game against the visiting Las Vegas Locomotives.

The 6-foot-4, 315-pound Wilson, who is battling an ankle injury, expects to see time at right tackle.

And playing time is all Wilson wants from the UFL.

“This is a great chance to show (NFL teams) I still have the ability to play,” Wilson said. “I got a little film out there.”

Undrafted out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Wilson spent a season on the Dolphins practice squad before spending 2008 on the Bucs practice squad. His time with the Tuskers might prove more valuable than his time with a pair of NFL teams, because Wilson actually gets on the field with the Tuskers. And the UFL is stocked with players who can still play in the NFL, said Tuskers coach Jim Haslett.

“There’s a good group of players here that I think can go back and help an NFL team,” Haslett said.

This is Wilson’s last chance at football, he said. Former teammate Adrian McPherson, now with Montreal of the CFL, called and asked Wilson if he was interested in playing way up north. Wilson said no thanks.

Too far from home. Too much of a long shot.

But the UFL? It’s a six game season, just long enough to show an NFL team he can block NFL-type players.

One more shot. That’s all Wilson wants. That’s all Hilliard offered.

“By the grace of God, Ike Hilliard called me,” Wilson said. “It’s a good thing this league came around. It’s a blessing.”

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