INDIANAPOLIS — Quincy Wilson wasn't ready for the 2017 season to end.
In fact, for him, the momentum was just getting started.
After a rookie season filled with its share of trials and tribulations, Wilson was able to find his groove late in the year, starting the Indianapolis Colts' final four games and gaining more and more confidence with each and every snap.
And now, as he enters his second year in the league with the depth chart wide open at cornerback with a brand new head coach calling the shots, Wilson couldn't be more excited about the opportunity in front of him.
"Ah man, it's everything I want," Wilson told Colts.com this week. "I'm just doing what I need to do so I can be on the right path to be able to hit the ground running once training camp comes and OTAs and stuff like that. So I can just take what I learned from last year and just put it all together and just be ready to roll."
Wilson certainly showed he had all the physical gifts he'd need coming out of Florida, where the big (6-foot-1, 206-pound), physical cornerback appeared in 39 games over three seasons, recording six interceptions, 84 tackles and 14 passes defensed.
He saw noted improvement each and every year, and wrapped up his final season with the Gators with career bests in tackles (33), tackles for loss (3.5), sacks (one), passes defensed (six) and interceptions (three), one of which he returned for a touchdown.
Wilson was selected in the second round of last year's NFL Draft by the Colts, and was confident that he could make an immediate impact for the Indy defense.
But he admitted this week that, like many rookies, he had to learn exactly what it meant to be a professional, and ran into an offseason program, training camp and preseason full of teaching moments from both his teammates and his coaches.
At 20 years old, Wilson was also the youngest player on the Colts' roster.
"I'd say coming out of college I was so ready to get here, and I thought I was prepared," Wilson said. " But when I got here, I wasn't."
Wilson did earn his first-career start Week 2 against the Arizona Cardinals, and by all accounts played well, finishing with two tackles and two passes defensed. But he would suffer a nagging knee injury in that contest that would, in part, keep him off the field for the next nine games.
But late in October, then-Colts defensive coordinator Ted Monachino hinted at some other issues beyond Wilson's knee that were possibly keeping him off the field, telling reporters, "It's not a matter of effort with Quincy and it's not even a matter of intelligence or want-to. He just has to show us on the practice field that he is dialed in and ready to go and mature enough to never take a down off mentally. That's where he is right now."
After hearing those comments, as well as experiencing a minor setback with his knee a couple weeks later, it all started to finally click for Wilson — and the timing couldn't be better, as the Colts saw their No. 1 (Rashaan Melvin) and No. 2 (Pierre Desir) cornerbacks suffer season-ending injuries down the stretch.
Wilson was learning just how to attack every day — not just Sundays.
"I'm always open to learning, you know, asking questions, spending extra time with the coaches and studying and, like you said, practice habits," Wilson said. "You've got to come out and prove it every single day, so that's just things that I keep on my conscience moving forward."
Wilson was able to knock off some rust as a reserve corner Week 13 against the Jaguars, finishing with three tackles, and would go on to start the last four games of the season. He had three key passes defensed in blizzard-like conditions Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills; followed that up with eight tackles in a matchup against the Denver Broncos in which he helped limit Demaryius Thomas to five receptions for 69 yards and no touchdowns; and would earn his first-career interception to wrap up a Week 17 victory over the Houston Texans.
Finally feeling like his confident self again, Wilson said he didn't want the 2017 season to end.
"I remember texting (former defensive backs coach) Coach (Greg) Williams after the Texans game; you know, he was proud of me and how I just stayed the course. And I remember telling him, I was like, 'Man, I really wish we had more games,' 'cause I just felt really comfortable. I just finally felt like myself again," Wilson said. "I remember, I used to talk to my dad and tell him, 'I want to feel like how I felt my last year at Florida,' like, just everything felt comfortable and I just knew what I was doing out there. And I finally felt like that, but the season was over. But, I mean, it just keeps me hungry and motivated to be able to go out there and still feel that same way and do what I do."
The task for Wilson and all of the Colts defenders now is a complete change in scheme under new head coach Frank Reich and defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.
After utilizing the 3-4 base defense under former head coach Chuck Pagano, Eberflus is making the transition to the 4-3, with less emphasis on man-to-man coverage — and more focus on zone — in the back end.
Wilson said he doesn't think much will change in his game. He'll remain physical with the receivers, but more of a zone look gives him an opportunity to see the play develop in front of him.
"I am a press corner, but I also like to play off," he said. "You know, I feel like playing a little bit more zone, you can see, get eyes on the quarterback and get your hands on the ball. So I feel like it'll just create more turnovers, and that's what we need to win games."
Wilson definitely has his swagger back. But now a year older — and with his rookie season behind him — he says he feels much better about how, and when, to channel that confidence.
"I just worked really hard to be in the right position, to be able to out there," he said. "You know, I took some rough paths my rookie year, but that's in the past, and I'm just grinding hard to have a better Year 2."