The dream was never over, only delayed for Jimmy Wilson, whose resurrected football career took another step with his selection in the NFL draft.
The Miami Dolphins took the hard-hitting defensive back in the seventh round Saturday with the 235th pick. A total of 254 players were selected by the NFL, which is currently in a lockout while in a labor dispute.
That didn't stop Wilson, whose career at Montana was interrupted by a 25-month stay in prison before he was cleared of murder charges, from enjoying the moment.
"I was sweating it out and then I got that call," Wilson said in a release from the University of Montana. "Considering all of the things that I have been through, and ... all the hard work that I've put in, it is just a blessing and just indescribable."
Local agent Ken Staninger represents Wilson, who was an honorable mention All-Big Sky Conference pick in 2010 at safety and second-team at cornerback in 2006. Wilson was jailed in 2007 after the shooting death of Kevin Smoot in 2007; after his acquittal in 2009, the University of Montana petitioned to restore his senior year of eligibility. It was granted last July.
Wilson had 50 tackles for the Grizzlies last fall and leaves UM as the program's career leader in pass deflections with 26. He had eight career interceptions and 190 career tackles.
He is also headed to a team stocked with Griz: Place-kicker Dan Carpenter, offensive lineman Cory Procter and running back Lex Hilliard all played alongside Wilson in 2005.
Wilson didn't return a phone call from the Missoulian Saturday; Staninger estimated his client had 100 phone calls and 50 texts after the draft.
"It's a really exciting day," said Staninger. "The rewarding side of things is that a team or a general manager can take so much interest in a young man. (Miami GM) Jeff Ireland talked to me, he talked to Bob Beers, he talked to (Griz coach Robin) Pflugrad and talked to Bobby Hauck at length."
Wilson was one of four Big Sky Conference players drafted Saturday: Eastern Washington running back Taiwan Jones went to Oakland and Portland State tight end Julius Thomas went to Denver in the fourth round; Montana State offensive lineman Mike Person, a Glendive native, went to the 49ers four picks after Wilson.
That's the most Big Sky selections since five were taken in 2004. The bad news is that the labor impasse still looms, and Staninger, Wilson and everybody else will be in a holding pattern.
An appellate court on Friday granted the NFL a stay of an injunction by federal judge Susan Richard Nelson. Nelson had lifted the lockout earlier in the week.
"Monday is going to be so anticlimactic," said Staninger, who has another Griz safety, Erik Stoll, hoping to land a NFL free agent deal (Chase Reynolds, UM's career touchdown leader, also went undrafted). "Because everybody's going to be looking at each other and you can't do anything.
"The process from here forward is we're going to have to wait until this new collective bargaining agreement gets worked out. While they're doing their wrangling, legally I don't think there's much, if any, (player-team) negotiations going on."
For the time being, Staninger can feel good about Wilson's latest chapter.
"I'm convinced he's very appreciative of his second chance and to see how much he's gone through and how hard he's worked," said Staninger. "All those things make you feel good about the fact he's going to get a legitimate chance at the dream."
Fritz Neighbor can be reached at 523-5247 or at email@example.com.