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Getting to know new Patriot Tavon Wilson

Curtis Drake, Tavon Wilson

Penn State receiver Curtis Drake (7) reaches for a pass over Illinois defender Tavon Wilson (3) during the first quarter of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Oct. 29, 2011. Drake came down with the pass out of bounds. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)


If your reaction when the Patriots took Illinois cornerback Tavon Wilson with the 48th overall pick in the NFL draft was something along the lines of, “Who’s that?” then you’re not alone. Wilson was a big surprise as a second-round draft pick, a player who wasn’t even invited to the Scouting Combine or any of the postseason all-star games. But there are reasons to think Patriots fans will like Wilson when they get to know him.

For starters, there’s the word of Patriots coach Bill Belichick, who says he doesn’t put a whole lot of stock into who goes to the Combine or the all-star games but does put plenty of stock into what he saw on tape when he watched Wilson, a three-year starter at Illinois.

“Some guys play in all-star games, some guys don’t. I don’t know who picks all those all-star teams. In all honesty, I don’t know who picks the Combine, for that matter,” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of “We can’t really worry about that. We just have to try to evaluate them the best we can.”

There are also plenty of reasons to like Wilson off the field: Ron Borges of the Boston Herald has a good story today about the way Wilson overcame a tough upbringing. His father was murdered when he was 1 and his mother drowned when he was 12,

“It was rough, man,” Wilson said. “My hat goes off to my grandmother because she’s a strong woman to take me and my sister in. Just raise us the best she can to try and give us everything she possibly could. Everybody has to overcome adversity. I overcame a lot of things in my life. That’s the reason I’m here today and the reason why I’m the person I am today. I just keep working all the time.”

Wilson’s family also includes another extraordinary woman, his great-great grandmother, Eddye Williams. Three years ago a story about Wilson mentioned that his 109-year-old great-great grandmother lived in a house is filled with pictures of Tavon, and two years ago the Washington Post marked Williams’ 110th birthday with a story saying she was the oldest resident of the nation’s capital. Her tips for living a long life are: “Love everybody. Don’t hate. Don’t gossip. Take care of your own business. And take care of your body.”

The Patriots confirmed today that Williams, who was born when William McKinley was president and Queen Victoria reigned in England, is still alive at age 112. The game of football that her great-great grandson plays is a bit different than the game when she was born in 1900: A touchdown was worth five points and so was a field goal, forward passes were illegal and Red Grange and Bronko Nagurski had not yet been born. Here’s hoping she watches her great-great grandson playing for the Patriots for years to come.